Top Five Reasons 2012 Made Us Pay Attention to Climate Change by Gia Machlin, December 29 2012, 1 Comment

It's that time of year when we look back and reflect on the past year and make silly lists. Well this list is far from silly - it is quite sobering news for many of us to accept. In 2012, climate change came to the forefront. Here are 5 reasons why:

5) 2012 was the hottest year on record. You were not imagining it when you melted your butt off at the beach in July or when you didn’t take out your winter coat more than twice this December. It’s getting hotter out there. A December 2012 report by the independent non profit organization Climate Central states: "There is a 99.99999999 percent chance that 2012 will be the hottest year ever recorded in the continental 48 states, based on our analysis of 118 years of temperature records through Dec. 10, 2012." Not that we won’t see more days with below freezing temperatures and chilling winds, but those days are becoming less frequent. While this is good news for those that hate the cold, it is bad news for the planet, as sea levels rise and arctic habitats disappear.

4) Other than the quite embarrassing absence of any mention of climate change in the presidential debates this fall, more leaders in business, politics, and the media are bringing this issue to the forefront. Eight out of ten companies are incorporating climate change into their business agenda and organizations including the World Bank, the American Meteorological Society, and even the head of the world’s largest mining company, Australian BHP Billiton, have issued statements regarding the reality and threat of climate change. Governor Cuomo, Mayor Bloomberg, other political leaders are also making climate change preparation a top policy issue.

3) This summer the US suffered from the worst drought in the last 50 years. Unfortunately, climate scientists predict that droughts like this one and the ones seen in the last few years around the world will become more common. Thinking beyond the financial impact of the drought on farmers, and our own pockets, the increased crop prices will have “severe consequences for the precarious lives and livelihoods of people in poverty” according to Oxfam. This will lead to spreading food unrest and ultimately political instability much quicker then we expect, according to the experts. Sounds pretty grim.

2) A 2012 NRDC report concluded that the U.S. ski industry is losing close to $1.7 billion in revenue and 13,000 jobs in years with lower snowfall. This one is very near and dear to my heart. My 14 year old son and 9 year old daughter participate in the ski teams and training programs at Mount Snow, Vermont (from where I am writing this post). I’d say just about nothing makes my son happier than his time on the ski slopes. He is only interested in going to college near a ski resort. According to this report, the average number of days with snow cover in the Northeast will decrease by 50% to 75% in the coming years. Will my son move to Alaska? Are there non-stop flights from NYC?

And the number one reason 2012 was the year that made us pay attention to climate change is:

1) Hurricane Sandy devastated the mighty Big Apple and made us all stand up and pay attention. Climate scientists have long been warning us that much of Manhattan will be under water by the end of the century. On October 29, 2012, we saw that begin to unfold in front of our eyes. And while New Yorkers have wonderful sense of community and resilience in times of crisis, many of us remain sheltered from the impacts of weather events, living in our high rises and ordering sushi to our hearts' delight. In the days after the hurricane, when many people in the tri-state area were without power, suffering from water and wind damage, and much worse, those of us who were lucky enough to remain unscathed watched from our living rooms as our neighbors suffered endlessly. And excuse me if I sound cynical, but while we felt sadness and did what we could to help those in need, we also had to deal with our own major inconveniences such as no mass transportation, no school, very few restaurants, cars under water at downtown garages, and the like. Climate change finally hit the 1%, and could no longer be ignored as something that affects “the rest of the world.”