The chapter on 2013 is finally closed. When it comes to climate change, there’s really not that much to set it apart from the past decade. Like 2012, it was a year full of more debate, some action, widespread protest, and lots of political stagnation.
Despite increasingly violent planetary warnings, we (humans, residents of developed nations, and especially Americans) failed yet again to commit to the changes necessary to keep climate change in check. Still, it wasn’t a complete loss. Someday, if we’re lucky, our grandchildren might look back on 2013 as the year when we finally started to wake up, even though it was too little, too late.
Climate Action: What We Did (and Didn‘t Do) in 2013
In 2011, California passed historic legislation that would create the country’s first cap and trade system for greenhouse gas emissions. On the first day of 2013, that law finally went into effect. This meant that California would finally stop begging polluters to clean up their act. Instead, they would make them pay for it. At the end of its first year, officials say the carbon credits issued and bought are valued at almost $1.1 billion. There’s still some discussion about the best way to spend this money, but early success improves the chances of California’s cap and trade program acting as a model for something similar at the national level.
Didn‘t: Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline
Yet another year has come and gone without any definitive action on the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline expansion. Despite the fact that 2013 saw thousands of protesters demand that President Obama reject the pipeline, we’ve seen nothing but delays and concessions in the form of a bogus “all of the above” energy policy. Now oil has already begun to flow through the pipeline’s southern portion, while more evidence of government collusion with Big Oil has emerged. It’s a big mess that’s almost guaranteed to be left behind for whomever wins the 2016 Presidential election.
Did: Spark a New Trend in Resilient Design
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, climate change preparedness became part of our national and global conversation. Leaders of some of the world’s biggest cities stepped up to acknowledge that sea level rise, drought, and other forms of extreme weather are a major threat, one that needs to be dealt with now rather than later. From New York to San Diego to Venice, Italy and back again, government leaders are teaming up with architects and city planners to figure out how to design homes and buildings that can withstand the uncertain future on a changing planet.
Didn‘t: Commit to Global Emissions Reductions at Warsaw Climate Talks
In 2013, world leaders had yet another opportunity to pump the brakes on human-accelerated climate change, and yet again, they failed. Despite watching Typhoon Haiyan destroy millions of lives in the Philippines just weeks before, delegates to the UN Climate Change Conference in Warsaw yet again showed that capitalism prevails, and they prefer to sell our future to the highest bidder.
Did: Watch the Media Take a Stand on Climate Denial
In October, the LA Times made history by announcing that it would no longer publish letters to the editor that claim there’s no sign humans had a hand in accelerating climate change. The brave move sparked a national outcry to other major publications, demanding that the media stop framing the reality of climate change as a debate, rather than scientific fact. As a result, three more publications announced that they would stop acting as a bully pulpit for climate change denial.
Didn‘t (and Did): Celebrate Obama‘s Climate Action Plan
In June, for the first time in American history, a President stood before the nation and agreed that climate change is no longer a distant threat — it’s here and we’re already experiencing the negative impacts. The announcement preceded the unveiling of President Obama’s landmark “Climate Action Plan,” a detailed strategy designed to allow his administration to side-step Congressional gridlock on the subject. Unfortunately, much of the plan focused on preparing for climate change (aka surrender) rather than making the sacrifices that keep us from blowing past the tipping point. Even worse, few portions of the plan detail how new regulations will be enforced, and where the money will come from. And nothing accounts for the coming push-back from Conservatives.
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