Eight Reasons Why 2013 was not a Good Year
3 January 2014
In 2013 after the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its 5th assessment on what scientists now understand about climate change, there were suggestions that 2013 wasn't a bad year environmentally, and that, in fact, there seemed to be a slowing of global warming. That, however, hasn't happened. The following events, all indicators of climate change, made 2013 one of the most perilous years in human history.
1- WE REACHED CARBON POLLUTION LEVELS OF 400PPM
Scientists have confirmed in recent years that to keep the planet in a state of balance we should allow no more than 350ppm (parts per million) of Co2 to enter the atmosphere. We reached 400ppm in May of 2013. This amount of carbon pollution trapped enough heat to fuel extreme heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods, tornadoes, and most recently in December some of the coldest temperatures ever recorded in Canada. Extraordinary cold snaps in winter are not inconsistent with the progress of global warming and climate change, they are just another type of "extreme weather". Scientists started taking regular measurements of atmospheric Co2 in 1958. Back then the lowest level recorded
was 313ppm. Although Co2 levels vary from year to year due to plant growth and death there has been a steady increase through the late 20th and early 21st centuries, driven by fossil fuel use.
2- IT'S GETTING HOTTER
1983-2012 was the warmest 30 years of the last 1400 years. Sea levels are rising due to a warmer wetter atmosphere that holds more moisture, in addition to the continuous melting of arctic ice. As the ice disappears there is nothing to reflect the sun's rays, consequently, the exposed earth continues to absorb more heat.
3- MORE ANIMALS AND PLANTS FACE EXTINCTION
The 4th IPCC assessment projected 40-70% of species could go extinct if the earth warms 3.5 degrees Celsius. We could reach this temperature by 2100 with rising levels of Co2 and methane. Migratory animals face "false springs" caused by changing weather patterns that disturb the meticulous timing necessary for the world's great migrations.
4- DEADLY HEAT, DROUGHT AND FIRES
November 2013 was the hottest November on record. Australia experienced its hottest month on record in January, its hottest September on record and fought major wildfires deadly to Firefighters and which covered larger areas than ever before. For the last 13 years the western U.S. has seen so little rain that scientists call the dry spell a "mega drought" which could continue for the next few years.
5- CHOKING POLLUTION HAS SHUT DOWN POPULATION CENTRES
The smog in China was bad in 2013. They imported more coal in 2013 than any other country in history, 7.7 billion tons were consumed in 2012. In January Beijing experienced the worst air pollution on record, with 30 micro grams per cubic meter, more particulate matter than in a smoking lounge. Air pollution shut down schools, roads and airports in China during 2013. In September they unveiled a plan to double their renewable energy capacity this year.
6- SEA LEVELS BROKE RECORDS, AMPLIFYING THE EFFECTS OF STORMS AND FLOODS
In March global sea levels hit a record high according to a report by the World Meteorological Association. The oceans are now warmer and warm water takes up more space than cool water, so sea levels will continue to rise regardless of land ice melts. Since 1901 sea levels have risen 19 centimeters or 7.5 inches, with a current rate of 3.2 millimeters a year. It is interesting to note that the rate of increase varies around the world. The coast of the Philippines has suffered 3x the sea level rise as the global average.
7- MUCH OF THE WORLD IS DOUBLING DOWN ON FOSSIL FUELS
Despite the fact that developed countries will have to lower emissions by 50% below 1990 levels at the end of the decade to stay below a 2 degree warming (the temperature at which we can still save the planet from further warming) global oil demand was higher than predicted this year. Besides ever rising Co2 emissions this will result in other associated disasters; explosions of rail cars carrying oil, oil pipeline spills, pipeline explosions, oil barge spills, leaky oil refineries and earthquakes linked to fracking.
8- WE ARE SERIOUSLY UNDER COUNTING METHANE EMISSIONS
Natural gas exploration produces methane, a greenhouse gas that is 34% more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere than Co2. The EPA and the industry pegs the total leakage at 1.5%, but new studies suggest that the rate could be well in excess of 3%. At the threshold of 3.2% leakage, gas is no better than coal for the climate and ceases to be the bridge to renewables that the industry predicted it would be.
Donna Mclellan for the
Tantramar Alliance Against Hydro Fracking