The greatest danger facing all of humanity is climate change and 2013 was a year where so much extreme climate change happened, and yet so little political action took place that we have decided to launch a regular news feature devoted solely to climate news. To launch this new feature we spend the rest of the hour surveying the top climate related stories of 2013 – the year that was the seventh warmest on record.
One of the strongest storms in world history, Typhoon Haiyan, tore through the central Philippines this past November killing over 6,000 people with catastrophic wind speeds of up to 196 miles per hour. Just days after the storm’s impact, Yeb Sano the head of the Philippines’ delegation to the United Nation’s Climate Change Conference or COP 19 in Warsaw Poland staged a hunger strike to plead with world leaders to take action against global warming. But his pleas went unheard as the conference ended with no emissions reduction agreements between countries and major environmental groups walking out of the corporate influenced talks.
Yet around the planet, record-breaking events from severe ice melt in the Arctic to the hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth in Death Valley California predominated weather reports. Extreme floods, snow and wildfires were seen around the world. Air pollution reached record breaking levels in several Asian cities. And, for the first time since 1958 when scientists started tracking carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, concentrations of CO2 passed 400 parts per million.
President Obama finally gave a speech addressing climate change vowing to limit carbon pollution, but in 2013 his administration worked to increase offshore drilling in the Arctic and expanding fracking and coal production on public lands. And oil spills occurred across the nation with little media attention including major spills in Arkansas and North Dakota. In Alabama, residents are still feeling the effects of a 2.7 million gallon oil spill after a train carrying the oil exploded back in November. Meanwhile the Keystone XL pipeline could still become a reality and activists refuse to remain silent having continued many actions to protest it.
In what was perhaps the most audacious action, a group of 30 people – mostly Greenpeace protesters and some journalists – were imprisoned by Russian authorities for challenging the oil prospecting in the newly exposed areas of the Arctic. The Arctic 30 as they were called, were finally released after being detained for two months in Russia.
And finally, a leaked portion of the United Nations’ International Panel on Climate Change or IPCC report which is due to fully come out in 2014 provided a grim look at the far-reaching effects of climate change that is most certainly being caused by humans. Despite the growing number of climate related stories, The New York Times eliminated its Environmental Desk this year.
GUEST: Kelly Mitchell, Coal Campaigner for Greenpeace. Since 2006, she has worked with citizen activists and organizations across the country to confront corporate polluters and transform US energy policy.