Top Climate Stories of 2013

פורסם: 21 בדצמ׳ 2013, 9:17 על ידי: Sustainability Org   [ עודכן 4 בינו׳ 2014, 8:41 ]

Climate Change Extreme Weather Source: Steve Zumwalt/FEMA

#10. More Weather on Steroids

In 2013, extreme weather events picked up right where they left off in 2012, and the resulting picture wasn’t pretty.

It wasn’t just Super Typhoon Haiyan leveling the city of Tacloban and other communities in the Philippines, leaving hundreds of thousands homeless and struggling to find food and water. It wasn’t just the 500-year floods inundating the cobbled streets and historic buildings of centuries-old towns in Germany, Austria, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. Or the biblical rains—and infernal floods—that rewrote the map and destroyed thousands of homes in Colorado’s Front Range. Or another year of record-breaking temperatures in Australia and bushfires devouring thousands of acres. Or the floods in India. Or the wildfires in the American West. It was that this list only begins to cover the many human and financial costs of carbon pollution we saw this year.

And with climate change continuing, these kinds of devastating events are only becoming more common, frequent, and extreme.

#9 Science Speaks Up

IPCC Climate Change Report

© 2013 IPCC

This September, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of more than 800 experts representing 85 nations, released the first part of its fifth assessment report (known in the field as AR5). Behind the abundant acronyms, the report summarized what the world’s leading climate scientists know about climate change, and the verdict was unequivocal: scientists are more certain than ever that greenhouse gases from human activity is the primary driver of climate change.

Ninety-five percent certain, to be exact. Or to put it another way, scientists are as certain that human activity is causing climate change as they are that cigarettes cause cancer.

AR5 also went a step beyond previous reports, giving us a budget for how much carbon pollution we can produce without global warming going over the 2 degree Celsius redline that experts agree is the limit for acceptable adaptation. The good news is that this number—one trillion tons—lets world leaders know just where the ceiling is if we want to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. The bad news is that we’ve already burned through more than half of our budget and are on track to exceed it by the middle of the century if emissions keep rising at their current rate.


Top Climate CHange Stories 2013 - Coal

© 2009 Yym1997

#8 Closing the Door on Coal

This summer, the U.S., U.K., and World Bank Group announced they would restrict funding for new coal-fired power plants overseas. The changes are part of an effort to fight carbon pollution by fostering a global shift toward low-carbon energy alternatives. The World Bank Group policy maintains provisions to support new coal facilities as a last resort in developing nations where no sustainable alternative exists.


#7 U.S. and China reach agreement on reducing HFCs


Future Ozone Layer Concentrations, image courtesy NASA

Carbon pollution is the main driver behind climate change, but it’s not the only one. Other gases like hydroflurocarbons (HFCs) may not pollute the atmosphere to the same degree as carbon dioxide, but retain significantly more heat energy, making them a potent threat to climate stability.

Recognizing this threat, U.S. President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping forged a new historic agreement this summer that outlines critical steps both nations will take to phase out use of HFCs. File under Great News.



Pete Souza/The White House

#6 “I’m Here to Say We Need to Act”

Some generations remember where they were when they heard the news of JFK’s assassination or the fall of the Berlin Wall. Here at Climate Reality, we’ll remember where we were when we heard a sitting U.S. president formally announce solving climate change as a national priority and say, “As a president, as a father, and as an American, I’m here to say we need to act.”

We couldn’t agree more. As the president laid it out under a sweltering July sun, the Climate Action Plan outlined four key steps for the administration: setting pollution limits for power plants, creating new standards for energy efficiency, expanding renewable energy, and galvanizing international action through treaties. The administration’s commitment to the latter was already in evidence in the agreement with China on phasing out HFCs, and progress towards the others began in the months that followed. Most notably, the EPA has been developing new standards for the power plants producing approximately 40 percent of our emissions and is due to release them for public comment in the new year. We’ll keep you updated so you can be sure your voice is heard.

Of course, the fossil fuel industry and its congressional allies quickly swung into action, predictably disputing the science, distorting the facts, and elevating fear-mongering into an art form. But while this response played out in House hearings and the usual media channels, it underscores the fact that enacting the plan will be a fight every inch of the way. It also highlights the fact that the fight is truly on at the federal level for the first time in years. And that’s reason for hope.


Climate Change Australia

© 2012 80 trading 24

#5 New leadership in Australia dismantling climate change legislation

Meanwhile, Down Under, it’s been a case of one step forward, two steps back for the climate in 2013. After introducing a landmark carbon tax to global acclaim in July 2012, the Australian government began steps to repeal the measure this fall and dismantle its commitments to emissions reduction following the election of Tony Abbot as prime minister.

These moves came even as the first eight months of the tax saw a 6 percent decline in emissions from the power plant sector primarily affected, coupled with a 25 percent growth in renewable energy use.

These moves came also as the nation has continued to suffer month after month of above-average—and in some, record-breaking—temperatures. And as the repeal debate raged in Parliament, violent bush fires exacerbated by these conditions raged for nearly 1,000 miles across New South Wales in October, destroying hundreds of homes and creeping dangerously close to Sydney.


China implementing pilot cap-and-trade programs

© 2009 Shubert Ciencia cc by 2.0

#4 China implementing pilot cap-and-trade programs

With both the world’s largest population and highest levels of carbon pollution, China has the most to lose from a changing climate and the most to do to address it. Reassuringly, the Chinese leadership sees this threat and has initiated a pilot cap-and-trade program to curb carbon pollution in seven different regions and cities. The country aims to follow the limited program with a nationwide strategy by around 2016.


#3 The Social Cost of Carbon Rises

Colorado Floods - Cost of Carbon

For years, the federal government has measured the economic impact of carbon pollution with a figure known as the social cost of carbon (SCC). The SCC gives an estimate of the economic damage produced by a single metric ton of carbon pollution, through its contribution to increased extreme weather events, health impacts, declining agricultural productivity, among others. The government then uses this number to help determine the social benefits of projects and programs that reduce carbon emissions.

In 2013, the Obama Administration announced it was revising the SCC up to $37/ton for 2015. The move makes sense: after all, with each year, the costs we’re paying for carbon pollution and climate change just keep rising as wildfires burn more often and longer and floods sweep through plains they’ve never hit before, each with serious economic consequences. The SCC offers a succinct way to capture what these impacts mean for all of us in a way that anyone can understand.

The usual suspects—the Heartland Institute, Wall Street Journal, congressional deniers, etc.—were quick to denounce the move because it makes clear the big-picture costs we’re paying for carbon pollution that they’d much prefer to keep hidden. The administration has opened the revised SCC up for public comments through January 27, 2014 and it’s a battle worth fighting.

Sunny Outlook for Clean Energy

#2 Sunny Outlook for Clean Energy

In a year when the reality of climate change became even clearer, so did the practical path to solving it. Renewables as a percentage of overall power sources are growing—fast. Between 2000—2012, wind generated electricity grew over 2,400 percent while solar grew over 800 percent (full figures for 2013 are not yet available, but monthly numbers point to another year of continued growth).[PDF]

Already, the U.S. solar industry is installing a new system every four minutes and, if current growth rates continue, will be installing a new system every 90 seconds by 2016. Costs are falling for renewables and becoming increasingly competitive with dirty fossil fuels. With more renewables and less carbon pollution: the future starts looking a little brighter.


dump coal

© 2009 cjanducci (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

#1. Time to Get Coal Out of Our Stockings

We all know we need a price on carbon pollution to accelerate a rapid decline in emissions and growth in clean energy. Just how badly was underscored by a new report indicating that global carbon pollution levels are on track to set a new world record of 36 billion metric tons in 2013, an increase of 2.1 percent from 2012.

We’ve seen what carbon pollution means. But rather than let this news dampen the holidays, let’s make our New Year’s resolution to put a price on carbon in 2014 and solve the climate crisis once and for all.