2016: A year in photos, from climate change devastation to the power of protests

The year ended with the election of a president and vice president who don't embrace the scientific consensus that climate change is real and caused by humans.


2016 will likely be the warmest year on record, according to the World Meteorological Organization. So it’s not surprising that issues related to climate change continued to dominate my work for DeSmog this past year.

I documented in photos the devastation caused by extreme weather and the passionate protests of people determined to protect the environment.

In the mix, you’ll see aerial images of the expansion of the oil and gas industry along Louisiana’s southwest coast and the Isle de Jean Charles in the state’s southeast, where the community won a grant to relocate due to extensive coastal erosion that will soon make the island uninhabitable.

I’ve included photos taken in Oklahoma, where earthquakes – caused by the use of deep injection wells used to dispose of fracking waste – continue to rattle the state, and in Alabama where a community is being sickened by a chemical spill that began over eight years ago.

Also in the mix you’ll find documentation of record-breaking floods in Louisiana and North Carolina.

The number and size of protests related to the environment in Louisiana are on the rise. In March, hundreds gathered in the New Orleans Superdome to protest against the federal government’s Gulf of Mexico drilling lease sale.

In November, activists gathered at the Army Corp of Engineers’ headquarters in a show of solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe against the Dakota Access pipeline, which Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) is building. At the same time, they were protesting against ETP’s Bayou Bridge Pipeline, which if built will be the tail end of its pipeline network, bringing North Dakota’s fracked oil to the Gulf Coast.

The year ended with the election of a president and vice president who don’t embrace the scientific consensus that climate change is real and caused by humans.

In 2017, I predict DeSmog, a news site devoted to clearing the PR pollution that clouds climate science, will be more important than ever. DeSmog’s debunking of misinformation on environmental issues will continue to be vital for the preservation of the planet as we know it.

LNG facility in Cameron, Louisiana
Cheniere Energy Inc. in Cameron, Louisiana, began exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) via tanker this year. The flight to take this photo was made possible bySouthwings.org.
Aerial view of a chemical plant expansion
Aerial view of Lake Charles Sasol Chemical complex expansion, a petrochemical facility in Westlake, Louisiana. The flight to take this photo was made possible by Southwings.org.
A woman and her granddaughter at a hearing on fracking-induced earthquakes in Oklahoma
Shirley Herkert with her granddaughter Caitlyn Zeno at a hearing on earthquakes at the State Capitol Building in Oklahoma City.
Woman standing in the back of her truck
Angela Spotts, founder of Stop Fracking Payne County in the back of her truck taking photographs in Cushing, Oklahoma in January. She and her husband sold their home in Stillwater this spring and moved out of the state after helping raise awareness about the connection between earthquakes and injection wells used to dispose of fracking waste. They had had enough of living with earthquakes.
Earthquake damage in Oklahoma
Damage in Cushing, Oklahoma, following one of the many earthquakes to rattle the state.
Protesters holding signs in solidarity with Standing Rock
Environmentalists from across the country march to the New Orleans Superdome, protesting against a federal lease auction of 44.3 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico to the oil and gas industry.
Protest signs against oil pipelines
Children take part in a protest in the New Orleans Superdome against a new auction of federal Gulf of Mexico drilling leases.
Flooded houses in Louisiana
Covington, Louisiana, residents watch floodwaters rise on March 12, 2016 in the Tallow Creek subdivision. Fourteen inches of rain fell in less than 24 hours, after three days of intermittent rain, causing flash floods. The flood was classified as a 500-year flood – one of eight 500-year floods in Louisiana over the last two years.
A Louisiana National Guard truck drives through floodwaters
The Louisiana National Guard sends a truck into the Tallow Creek subdivision to rescue residents during the 500-year flood in March.
Alabama residents protest a mercaptan spill
Carletta Davis leads a protest march in downtown Mobile in order to bring attention to the situation in Eight Mile, Alabama, where residents have been affected by what they say is an eight-year-long unmitigated mercaptan spill.
Wilma Subra speaks at a community meeting
Wilma Subra at an Eight Mile, Alabama, community meeting on July 21, 2016 at the High Point Baptist Church. She explains to the community that the data provided by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management show that the level of mercaptan in the air is getting worse, more than eight years after the problem was reported.
Michael Bishop on his property in Douglas Texas
Texas landowner Michael Bishop, on his property in Douglas, Texas, where he continues to challenge TransCanada’s right to build the Gulf Coast Pipeline (formerly known as the southern route of the Keystone XL pipeline).
Eleanor Fairchild stands in a ditch on her property created by TransCanada's pipeline construction
Eleanor Fairchild stands in a ditch created by erosion that took place on her land after the installation of TransCanada’s Gulf Coast Pipeline. TransCanada at first told her they weren’t going to fix the problems she blamed on the company, but has since agreed to do more work to restore her land to its condition before they installed the Gulf Coast Pipeline.
A group going on a 'toxic tour' in Manchester, Texas
A group on a “toxic tour” led by t.e.j.a.s, in Hartman Community Park in Manchester Texas, across from the Valero Houston Refinery. t.e.j.a.s. (Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services) is a community-based activist organization in East Houston that advocates for fenceline communities.
A flare at a refinery in Texas
Flare at a refinery in Deer Park, Texas.
Exxon's Baytown Refinery in Texas
Baytown Refinery, in Baytown, Texas, is Exxon’s largest United States refinery.
Oil spill containment boom in Louisiana
Hilcorp oil spill in Rattlesnake Bayou, in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, one of three reported oil spills in 10 days.
Flooded neighborhoods in Livingston Parish, Louisiana
Livingston Parish, Louisiana, following record-breaking rainfall, which contributed to a 1,000-year flood.
An Exxon refinery shut down during a flood in Louisiana
During the flooding in August, ExxonMobil’s Baton Rouge refinery shut down four production units and idled others as ongoing flooding threatened offsite facilities, including pumping stations and gas storage facilities.
Flooded highway in Louisiana
Standing water on I-10 shut down the interstate for days following Louisiana’s 1,000-year flood. All the major roads that connect New Orleans to Baton Rouge were closed in the days that followed the storm this summer.
Protesters hold a sign to President Obama saying 'More drilling = more flooding'
During President Obama’s visit to a flood-ravaged area near Baton Rouge, Louisiana, activists Blake Kopcho, Sue Prevost, John Clark, and Renate Heurich protest in the entrance to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management office building in New Orleans.
Workers dump soda ash in floodwaters at a chemical plant in Louisiana.
Workers dump soda ash in floodwaters at the Honeywell Geismer chemical plant to raise the water’s pH following a release of sulfuric acid and oleum that occurred during Louisiana’s 1,000 year flood.
A temporary landfill for flood debris in Louisiana.
A temporary landfill on North Sherwood Forest Drive close to Monticello, in east Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Two of three temporary landfills that received debris from flood-damaged homes and business were set up next to neighborhoods that are primarily African American.
Robin Kay in front of her flood-damaged home in Louisiana.
Robin Kay in front of her flood-damaged home in Monticello, Louisiana, about a quarter mile from a temporary landfill on North Sherwood Forest Drive.
A pile of flood debris outside a church in Louisiana.
A month after the 1,000 year flood in Louisiana, a pile of debris from inside the St. Paul Baptist Church remained on the curb in front of the church.
Workers gutting a flood-damaged house in Louisiana.
Jonathan Faris, one of a crew of workers hired by the Louisiana Action Network to gut houses destroyed by the summer’s 1,000 year flood.
A kayak floating in front of flooded South Carolina home.
A Trump-Pence bumper sticker on a house in South Carolina along the Intracoastal Waterway. Hurricane Matthew caused rivers in North and South Carolina to peak at record-breaking levels.
A family stands in an emergency shelter after Hurricane Matthew.
Kiera Kelly (right) with her mother Mary (left) and her three daughters at Purnell Swett High School in Pembroke, North Carolina, which was turned into a shelter after Hurricane Mathew flooded large parts of Lumberton.
Floodwaters surrounding an ambulance.
Lumberton, North Carolina, after waters begin to recede following Hurricane Matthew.
Flooding in Lumberton, North Carolina, after Hurricane Matthew.
Kinston, North Carolina, after the Upper Neuse River crested. The flight to take this photo was made possible by Rick Dove, Senior Advisor of the Waterkeeper Alliance.
A flooded factory hog farm in North Carolina after Hurricane Matthew.
An industrial hog farm in North Carolina next to the Upper Neuse River flooded when the river crested following Hurricane Matthew. The berm surrounding a waste pit at this factory did not breach, but the stalls containing the pigs were submerged in water, likely killing all the livestock. The flight to take this photo was made possible by Rick Dove, Senior Advisor of the Waterkeeper Alliance.
Leaves covered in coal ash in North Carolina.
Coal ash covered everything in its path after floodwaters helped breach the dam to a 1.2 billion gallon coal ash pond at Duke Energy’s H.F. Lee plant, next to the Upper Neuse River in North Carolina. Documentation of the spill was made public by the Waterkeeper Alliance and the Upper Neuse Riverkeeper at Sound Rivers.
Gloved hands holding leaves coated in coal ash.
Pete Harrison, staff attorney for the Waterkeeper Alliance, holds leaves coated in coal ash, while standing on the bank of the Upper Neuse River where coal ash breached a cooling pond dam at Duke Energy’s H.F. Lee plant in North Carolina.
Protesters in Louisiana showing solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
Anne Rolfes, director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, and over 150 people protest against the Dakota Access pipeline while outside of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers’ headquarters in New Orleans, participating in a show of solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
A child sits next to signs in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
A child with environmental activists protesting against the Dakota Access pipeline in New Orleans outside the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers headquarters in a show of solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, whose fight against the pipeline continues.
Isle de Jean Charles among Louisiana's barrier islands.
Isle de Jean Charles, in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, where the community won a grant to relocate due to coastal erosion paired with rising tides. The flight to take this photo was made possible by Southwings.org.
A green algae bloom along Island Road in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana.
A green algae bloom on November 15 along Island Road in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, which connects Isle de Jean Charles and Pointe au Chien. The flight to take this photo was made possible by Southwings.org.
Dead fish floating among green algae.
Dead fish float in green algae off Island Road, Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, in mid-October. Officials suspect low dissolved oxygen levels in the unseasonably warm water caused the fish kill.
A life-sized Santa stands outside a flood-damaged house in Louisiana.
The Herberts’ home in Denham Springs, Louisiana, which was damaged by the 1,000 year flood in August, still unoccupied at the end of October.

Main photo: The contents of Lisa Herbert’s Denham Springs, Louisiana, home on her lawn. The discarded Santa danced for her family for the last 13 years. ‘“This is his last dance,” Herbert said on Sept. 1, a few weeks after a 1,000 year flood destroyed her home.

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