|Gazprom’s Arctic oil rig.|
By Anders Lorenzen
Did our key predictions for 2013 come true, and what are we expecting from 2014?
While the 2013 Arctic summer sea ice loss was not as drastic as in 2012, the Arctic issue was still one of the dominating environmental stories of 2013. There are several reasons for this, not the least environmental group Greenpeace’s efforts to bring the Arctic debate into the mainstream. There were several milestones in the Arctic tale last year, starting in January when Shell’s Arctic dream started to falter as their drilling platform Kulluk ran aground off the Alaskan coast on it’s way to the Arctic, after which Shell postponed it’s Arctic drilling program until 2014. The summer saw a number awareness raising activities across the globe, then in late August, the Russian Coast Guard denied the Greenpeace ship, the Arctic Sunrise, access to the busy Northern Sea Route (NSR) in the Arctic circle where it was protesting Russian seismic testing for oil reserves. In a brave move, Greenpeace defied their orders, as explained first hand to us in Arctic campaigner Dima Litvinov’s blog post. What followed took everyone by surprise; following a peaceful protest activity at a Gazprom Arctic oil rig in international waters in September, the Russian Coast Guard illegally boarded the ship and seized it towing it to the oil port Murmansk, where the whole crew, including two journalists, were arrested. An international campaign to get the ‘Arctic 30’ freed quickly took hold, drawing in support from NGO’s such as the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) and Amnesty International. The Dutch government even filed and won a legal case against Russia at the International Tribunal for the Sea, for illegally detaining the ship (which flies under a Dutch flag) and its crew. After huge international pressure, and mountains of media coverage giving Russia a bad name in the run up to the Sochi Winter Olympics (coming up this year), the activists were eventually granted amnesty and released. Greenpeace stresses that this episode marks the start and not the end of the fight to liberate the Arctic from international oil industry exploitation. In the meantime, Gazprom have announced they have started to produce their first Arctic offshore oil from the very rig Greenpeace protested at. We fully expect the Arctic to be a frontline issue in 2014 also.
Extreme weather increase in both frequency and severity in 2013. Mainstream media were often slow to make the link to climate change, in some instances it was not even made. Fierce weather events took place across the developing and developed world alike; Europe, the US and Canada were each badly hit, but the worst hit country was the Philippines where super typhoon Haiyan devastated parts of the country, apparently the largest typhoon in the time of records to have ever made landfall. Haiyan’s timing was fortuitous, hitting in the run-up to UN’s annual climate negotiations in Poland, prompting the Philippine negotiator Yeb Sano to make a tearful address pleading world leaders to take drastic action to combat climate change. Other notable events were the out of season wildfires to hit Australia, canadian ice storms, the severe storms that battered the UK and Denmark in December, the ongoing drought situation in Texas and severe flooding in Brazil. We expect this to increase in 2014 as climate change continues to strengthen its grip.
Finally, 2013 was the year when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the first section of it’s fifth assessment report, in which this world leading body of climate scientists warned that the evidence that man made climate change is occurring has ‘never been stronger’. We will see the remaining sections of the report released this year. Last year was also the year in which we reached a milestone high of 400 parts per million (PPM) CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere. The general consensus amongst scientists is that this number should be no higher than 350 PPM if we are to avoid catastrophic tipping points for our climate. At the moment there is no signs that the number will reduce anytime soon.
While it’s impossible to cover all developments of 2013, we believe that these are the core ones, if you disagree or have feedback we would love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org , @Aglagw_Blog, or on our Facebook and Google + pages.
Call out for international reporters and bloggers: In 2014 we’re looking to increase our reporting from across the globe, particularly surrounding extreme weather events. If this is something yo
u are interesting in contributing to, via content sharing or original material, we’d love to hear from you via email@example.com
Sub edited by Kirstie Wielandt