Climate Action: What We Did (and Didn’t Do) in 2013

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 Didnt Do) in 2013

Did: See California Launch a Cap-and-Trade Program

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.

Didnt: 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.

Didnt: 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.

Didnt (and Did): Celebrate Obamas 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.

Image via Thinkstock


Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Eternal Gardener
Eternal G5 years ago

Whatever has been done, it sure wasn't enough!!!

Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld5 years ago

David f ,
I must admit. That was funny.

Nikolas Karman
Nikolas K5 years ago

Beth sounds to me that its you with the agenda regarding the hype of climate change denial versus acceptance. Climate has and always will change but not how you want us to believe it. the two versions are poles apart.

Robert Bernal
Robert Bernal5 years ago

Empirical evidence is in the thermal expansion and (slight) increase of acidity of the oceans.

Don't argue the science, just the tactics used by the silly promoters of "less". Fossil fuels will become too expensive for ALL the developing world (and us) so it might be wise to convince ourselves to use less of it, but we MUST deploy melt down proof nuclear at the global scale (so we don't have to suffer the route of eventual depletion)!

Nimue Pendragon

Too little too late.

Jackie Heinl
Jackie Heinl5 years ago

While scientists scream that we need 80 percent reduction, the President's plan is a 17 percent reduction to 2005 levels. We are about to be slammed by climate change impacts, and indeed many hare already suffering the consequences of change through extreme weather events. I wonder if fossil fuel lobbyists wrote the damn thing for him, because the scientists sure didn't.


Holly Lewis
Past Member 5 years ago

Thank you for the article. It is so frustrating that people can be so STUPID about our children's future. Climate change is real, and so is media distortion.

We will advance as a nation when the businesses and politicians in bed with Fox news & Co. finally embrace integrity. But what will it take? Another Dust Bowl? Ten more Hurricane Sandy's? Thousands of world citizens dying of disease linked to climate change? Or will it take severe damage to corporate profits to get them to wake up? (forget about human suffering, what about loosing my third private jet?)

I apologize for the rant; I also don't mean to blame the world's evils on the wealthy. All we want is for corporate and political greed to be replaced with sensibility and human decency.

Michael H.
Mike H5 years ago


Carol P.
Carol P5 years ago

We aren't doing nearly enough. But I'm very happy to see a post about it. We all need to get fired up again rather than be satisfied with what little has been accomplished. We won't be able to stop or reverse it, but we can always slow it down, even be just a little.