A year in the climate movement: 2013 lowlights

• December 27, 2013
A year in the climate movement

2013 was a year of extreme weather events, including the devastating Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the Philippines in November. Creative Commons: DFID, 2013

As 2013 draws to a close, we’re taking the opportunity to reflect on a year in the climate movement - the impacts, the activism and the action.

Looking back on 2013, we hope to better understand the complex landscape in which we are trying to build a safe and sustainable future, and where the climate movement stands as we move into a new year.

Over the next two days, we will bring you a round up of 2013 in the climate movement – both the good and the bad.

First up, this year’s lowlights.

1) 400ppm: World crosses sobering climate milestone

In May, scientists at the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii confirmed that concentrations of atmospheric CO2 had passed the ominous milestone of 400 parts per million (ppm) – concentrations not seen for more than 3 million years. According to experts, the last time our planet was exposed to equivalent levels of greenhouse gases, global temperatures were 3-4°C hotter and sea levels were 5-40 meters higher than today.

“It is symbolic, a point to pause and think about where we have been and where we are going,” said Professor Ralph Keeling from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii on this historic milestone. It’s like turning 50. It’s a wake up to what has been building up in front of us all along.”

2) A year of extreme weather

2013 was the seventh warmest year on record. As of November it also had the second highest number of billion-dollar weather disasters around the globe since accurate records begun in 2000.

China, Russia, Europe, North America, Indonesia and India were plagued with floods while China, Portugal, Hungary, Finland and the UK all experienced heatwaves. In the Uttarakhand state of India, flooding left 5700 lives presumed lost and many more devastated. At the other extreme, California’s Death Valley saw temperatures hit 54°C – the hottest temperature ever record on Earth in June – while Australia got so hot, the country’s heat map needed a new colour added.

The Pacific saw some of its worst storms on record this year. In October, Cyclone Phallin carved a path of damage across India’s Odisha region – with storm surges reaching as high as 3.5 metres (11 feet). In November, it was the turn of the Philippines, when Typhoon Haiyan brought winds of 315km/h and gusts up to 380km/h. It was recognised as the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall in modern history, and the storm’s death toll currently stands at over 6,000.

“To anyone who continues to deny the reality that is climate change, I dare you to get off your ivory tower and away from the comfort of you armchair. I dare you to go to the islands of the Pacific, the islands of the Caribbean and the islands of the Indian Ocean,” urged Filippino climate commissioner, Yeb Sano in the wake of the storm. “And if that is not enough, you may want to pay a visit to the Philippines.”


Filipino climate commissioner Yeb Sano addresses the UN climate conference in Warsaw

3) Increasing human costs of climate change 

This year has seen storm surges engulfing large parts of the low lying Marshall Islands and who villages in Fiji already being forced to relocate because of rising seas. This year has also seen a court case in New Zealand where an immigrant from the Pacific Island of Kiribati fought – and failed – for climate refugee status, arguing that sea level rises made it too dangerous to return home.

In its ‘Turn Down the Heat’ report back in June, the World Bank painted a stark picture of our warming world. They warned that millions would be left trapped in poverty as temperatures rise, with 2°C and 4°C of warming expected to put serious strain on agricultural production, water resources and coastal communities.

Other warnings this year include the threat of persistent flooding impacting development in Pakistan and climate change’s impact food production around the world – including in the UK and Ghana – and the potential for increased numbers of climate refugees in the Sahel region of Africa.

4) Governments backtrack on climate pledges

When Australia’s new government came to power in September, the first major act of the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, was to scrap the Climate Commission – an independent climate research body. The government has also started to repeal the country’s carbon pricing laws, replacing it with a Direct Action plan, which experts say is uneconomical and could cause a rise in the country’s emissions.

Canada’s emissions continue to rise this year, as the country’s government blindly pursues the expansion of its tar sands industry, approving the construction of a highly controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline to export tar sands and conducting fierce lobbying tours to sell the industry to the US and Europe.

Japan has also joined this year’s climate villains list as days into November’s UN climate talks, the government announced a change in its climate commitment which will see the country’s emissions rise 3% on 1990 levels by 2020 – a big jump from their promised 25% cut.

5) Climate activists increasingly at risk

In a much-publicised saga, the Arctic 30 – 28 of who were Greenpeace activists – faced 15 years in a Russian prison after being faced with piracy – a charged that was lowered to hooliganism – this year, for protesting at a Gazprom drilling rig. The activists spent two months in jail before being given amnesty by the Russian parliament this week.

A year in the climate movement - Arctic 30

The arrest of 30 activists in the Russian Arctic prompted fierce protest around the world. Creative Commons: Osvaldo Gago, 2013

US activist Tim DeChristophere was released from jail after a twenty-one month prison term for disrupting a land auction which would have sold off leasing rights to oil and gas companies, while Australian activist Jonathan Moylan is facing jail following a fake press release blamed for setbacks on the approval of the $776 million dollar Maules Creek coal mine.

And more and more activists are paying the ultimate price to give the world a better future, with reports showing the murder of environmentalists – particularly in the global south – is on the rise, and far too many deaths reported in 2013.

While this list offers a sobering reminder of how far we still have to go as a movement, 2013 has also been a year of great wins for the environmental movement and of positive shifts that show the issue is beginning to resonate with all sectors of society.

Do not despair yet; we’ve also put together all of our top moments of 2013.


Comments (1)

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  1. Lyn Samuel says:

    Another piece of Green propaganda. There is a major flaw with this article and the one referred to below from the Guardian. Deaths from climate disasters are actually down over the last several years. http://australianclimatemadness.com/2013/12/29/extreme-weather-deaths-at-lowest-ever-despite-global-warming/

    The Wall Street Elite, Climate Alarmists and the elite controlled world press are becoming increasingly illogical and
    hysterical in their predictions blaming every weather event on climate change and presenting theory and conjecture as fact and science.

    I’m at a loss to explain how a journalists can write nonsense rubbish
    like this and a paper as respected as the Guardian actually publishes
    it. Exactly how you can string two conflicting ideas together and call
    it logic is astounding.

    ”The stories of typhoon Haiyan and cyclone Phailin illustrate the argument that there is no such thing as a ‘natural’ disaster”

    and then state

    ”…. There is no serious evidence that any freak storm or flood anywhere can be
    blamed on global warming but, as average global temperatures rise, it
    seems reasonable to expect extremes to become more extreme…”

    Can explain why is seems reasonable for the extremes to be more
    extreme? Since there is no historical evidence to suggest any
    connection between AGW and either the frequency or intensity of either
    Cyclones or Droughts? That is of course a quote from the 2013 IPCC
    report.

    And lets not forget there has been no warming over the last 13 years and that temperatures are not rising along with increases in CO2 concentrations as Alarmists would have us believe.

    When the IPP releases a report the many alarmists disagree with they simply
    abandon science and logic in preference for lies, hysteria and emotion
    in order to advance their agenda.

    The elite pushing for increasing Wind and Solar Subsidies are fighting back against pressure from governments around the world cutting back on green energy initiatives. George Sorros, Warren Buffet the Rothschilds and the
    Rochefeller’s are all financing the green movements, organizations,
    forums and websites like GetUp, 350.org, The Sierra Club in an effort to
    mobilise public support for higher energy prices, tax breaks, cheap
    financing, guaranteed inflated feed in tariffs.

    Unfortunately for these Wall Street criminals and thankfully for hard working
    taxpayers the IPCC report has effectively killed the science behind Global Warming, Climate scientists and Climate Alarmists are in disarray trying to explain the missing warming. They are becoming increasingly illogical and hysterical in their predictions blaming every weather event on climate change and presenting to present theory and conjecture as fact and science.

    Need proof? This is what the alarmists try and pass off as science! The thing is most greens are either to desperate to keep their nightmare alive or too stupid to see the deception.

    Just look at this graph and tell me climate change alarmists are not clutching at straws. The data for the MAW shown in green on this graph isn’t real, does not exist and is simply made up! http://on.fb.me/1ahx4pQ

    http://truth-out.org/news/item/20751-climate-change-2013-where-we-are-now-not-what-you-think

    The public is not buying it any more and are sick and tired of funding
    the profits of the elite. End all green energy subsidies!

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/29/weather-natural-disaster-climate?commentpage=1

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