Could 2013 be the turn-around year in the fight against Climate Change? Is it possible that the climate-induced events of 2012 will spur world leadership into decisive action towards the reduction of CO2 emissions? Or will we have to wait a little longer, or perhaps a lot longer?
Events of 2012
2012 was the year when the reality of climate change hit home. The extreme weather seen around the globe caused devastation on a scale unseen before (flooding, droughts, heat, storms, wildfires). In the US, Superstorm Sandy was the wakeup call to our increased vulnerability to extreme weather. Now nearly 75% of Americans believe climate change is here. See previous blogpost – U.S. Elections. Where is the Leadership on the Climate Crisis?
Discovery News reports that there were eleven $1 billion weather-related disasters in the United States in 2012 (according to a preliminary count by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). Many of these events are not necessariy caused by Climate Change but experts agree that both the frequency and intensity of weather-produced disasters are now part of our reality.
Elsewhere, in China, natural disasters left 1,338 dead in 2012 as reports Xinhua (Chinese News Agency).
“Disasters affected 290 million people, destroyed 906,000 houses, severely damaged 1.46 million houses and caused direct economic losses of 418.55 billion yuan (66.55 billion U.S. dollars) on the Chinese mainland, according to a joint statement from the Ministry of Civil Affairs and the office of the National Committee for Disaster Reduction.”
The Voice of Russia (Radio) states that:
“in a report recently published by the leading global reinsurer Swiss Re, the damage caused by the natural disasters and man caused disasters in 2012 has reached almost $140 billion. For reference, in 2011 this figure was $120 billion.”
If you do the math, this represents almost a 20 percent increase.
But in spite of a rise in awareness about climate change, the reality is that for most people, climate is just another thing on a long list of problems we need to tackle. We know we need to do something but when? And who? And how? Decades have slipped by while emissions have climbed beyond agreed upon thresholds.
Progress will happen incrementally, in many little ways, small footsteps really. It will be local, regional and individual. One recent example is from Concord, Massachusetts, which banned the sale of single-serving plastic water bottles. The ban was enacted as a result of a 3-year campaign by local activists led by octogenarian Jean Hill.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and the severe summer of 2012, we can expect some minor climate change legislation to be kicked around in 2013 as the US begins to address the reality of a looming worldwide climate catastrophe. Canada will continue to be irrelevant in the fight against climate change.
The Dawn of the Water Crisis
2013 will see the dawn of the water crisis, as shortages for fresh water are about to take a quantum jump for the worse. While the spectre of acute water crises is not new to arid regions of the globe, the World Bank reports that Arab countries in particular will be the hardest hit by global warming.
No water means no food. Close to a billion people already live in chronic hunger and dwindling water resources. In some countries, rivers dry up before reaching the ocean. Aquifers are being depleted for agricultural production and the fracking of shale formations for the extraction of oil.
A report by the Office of National Intelligence states that “US intelligence sees global water conflict risks rising” (Article featured in Dawn World, March 2012). A senior US intelligence official told reporters that:
“The use of water as a weapon or to further terrorist objectives also will become more likely….noting that vulnerable water infrastructure was a tempting target…and the risk of conflict would grow with global water demand likely to outstrip current sustainable supplies by 40 per cent by 2030…water in shared basins would increasingly be used by states to pressure their neighbors.”
The Emerging Food Crisis
In 2012, extreme weather ravaged crops and eroded agricultural land in some of the globe’s major food-producing regions, affecting food supplies and prices. The US mid-West was severely affected and the ongoing drought conditions make the likelihood of further food shortages very high. As consumers start feeling the spikes in prices, there will be a public outcry from Americans unwilling and unable to deal with food shortages already common in many other regions of the world.
The following infographic depicts the extent of the US drought which is expected to continue in 2013.
David Frum (contributing editor at Newsweek, the Daily Beast and CNN contributor says that 2013 will be a year of global food crisis:
“Americans spend only about 10% of their after-tax incomes on food of all kinds, including restaurant meals and prepackaged foods. Surveys for Gallup find that the typical American family is spending one-third less on food today, adjusting for inflation, than in 1969.”
“But step outside the developed world, and the price of food suddenly becomes the single most important fact of human economic life.”
“When grain prices spiked in 2007-2008, bread riots shook 30 countries across the developing world, from Haiti to Bangladesh…a drought in Russia in 2010 forced suspension of Russian grain exports that year and set in motion the so-called Arab spring.”
Unfortunately, as both the food and water scarcity intensify, we will see the widespread geo-political conflict.