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To close out 2014, Planet Experts is doing a roundup of the most important environmental stories that we covered this year. This article features some of the worst news for the planet’s climate. For more environmental roundups, check out ‘The Top 10 Solar Stories of 2014,’ ‘The Top 10 Things We Learned About the Ocean in 2014’ and ‘The 10 Most Uplifting Environmental Stories of 2014.’

smokestackLook, we’re going to level with you, the facts in this list are the reason why our editor-in-chief Pierce Nahigyan has a secret place in the office attic where he smashes beer bottles and practices archery on effigies of various political figures. It’s not a happy place, and neither is the following listicle.

However, as depressing as these stories are (and as rabid our editor-in-chief has become), it’s as important to count our environmental losses as our environmental wins. These 10 things need to improve if the world is going to heal itself from all the nasty [email protected]&t we’ve done to it.

So, in the spirit of ripping off our collective Band-Aid of environmental self-loathing, Planet Experts presents the top 10 most depressing climate change stories of 2014:

10) Jim Inhofe Will Lead the Senate’s Environment Committee

If you needed just one quote to sum up Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK), it would be something he said back in 2005 on the subject of global warming. According to Inhofe, global warming is “the second-largest hoax ever played on the American people, after the separation of church and state.” It’s but one of many peaches from Congress’s most vociferous science denier. After the Republicans take over the Senate in January, Sen. Inhofe has been tapped to lead the Committee on Environment and Public Works. Read More…

9) Carbon Dioxide Levels Hit 400 PPM for the First Time in Human History

In April, carbon dioxide levels in the Northern Hemisphere reached 400 parts per million, a level the Earth has not seen for some 800,000 years. To give that some context, there is no precedent in the whole of recorded human history for what that kind of carbon concentration will do to our weather, climate, health or world. Read More…

8) Republicans Are Still Fighting Against Climate Change

capitolbuildingIf all you read is Planet Experts, fighting against man-made climate change probably seems like the main plank in the Republican party platform. Unfortunately, we can’t do much about the facts. Republicans, on the whole, are more closely tied to American business – and a lot of American business runs on fossil fuels. Soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hails from the third-largest coal producer in the nation, so naturally he’s made his top priority fighting the EPA. Dr. John Holdren, Obama’s top science advisor, is a very smart man, but that hasn’t stopped Republicans from arguing with him about science they don’t understand. The pro-business, anti-environment mindset is why Republicans voted against the environment 551 times in the last four years; why they’re near to passing two bills that would effectively dismantle the EPA; and why President Obama is gearing up for all-out war on environmental regulation.

7) The U.S. Is Sending Its Leftover Coal Overseas

coalThe world had a banner year for renewable energy, and solar in particular, but that hasn’t changed the fact that coal is still the most affordable fuel source on the planet. The most affordable and the most foul. Coal is the dirtiest way to generate energy on the planet (it creates particulate pollution that impacts both agriculture and human health), so it’s a good thing that the United States has cut its coal consumption by 195 million tons over the last six years. Not so good is the fact that we’ve been shipping 20 percent of it to other countries. Read More…

6) More Carbon Pollution Was Emitted in 2013 Than Any Previous Year

Technically, this is the most depressing news from 2013, but we didn’t learn about it until this year. In September, scientists from the Global Carbon Project, an international research team, announced that countries emitted 39.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide in 2013 (that’s 2.3 percent more than in 2012). The biggest contributors to this increase were – perhaps unsurprisingly – the planet’s three biggest polluters: China, the U.S. and India. Read More…

5) The G20 Are Still Heavily Subsidizing Fossil Fuels

#6 on this list is not nearly so surprising now, is it? In 2009, the world’s leaders pledged to limit their greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius by 2100. Despite this fact, the G20 have spent $775 billion to subsidize the use and production of fossil fuels – and that’s a conservative estimate. Read More…

4) The Lima Climate Summit Did Not End Well

The COP20 met in Lima, Peru this December to craft guidelines that would serve as the foundation for a climate change treaty that will be decided in Paris next year. Paris 2015 has become the focus of so many environmental hopes for humanity’s future, but Lima 2014 revealed the distance between those hopes and reality. The final draft of the ADP reached a compromise by saying that countries have “common but differentiated responsibilities” to deal with global warming, but the text remains vague and no country left the negotiating table totally satisfied – even after the summit went two days over-schedule. Sam Smith, chief of climate policy for the World Wildlife Fund, told BBC, “The text went from weak to weaker to weakest and it’s very weak indeed.” Read More…

3) Sea Level Rise Is Already Affecting the Planet

Satellite photographs of Venice, Louisiana (1956-2010). Source: The Huffington Post

In the not too distant future, rising sea levels could swallow the world’s coastal cities. But in the here and now, sea level rise (SLR) is already affecting many coastal and island communities. Satellite maps have revealed that the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are melting at an “unprecedented rate” while the Arctic has contracted by about 2.8 percent per decade. Over the last two decades, an average of 91.5 billion tons of ice has vanished from Antarctica every year. The lack of sea ice has impacted both walruses and polar bears, but on the human front, experts say that rising seas and accompanying storm surges could cost the country over $1 trillion in damages. In Louisiana, 2,000 square miles of coastline is now underwater. Experts say most of Miami Beach, Key Biscayne and Virginia Key will be underwater by 2100. On the island of Kiribati, fresh water is being contaminated by the encroaching sea and the government is planning to relocate its entire population in 30 years.

2) 2014 Was the Hottest Year on Record

Hot SunAccording to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the first 10 months of 2014 have been hotter than any previous 10-month period. Thus far, the average global temperature between January and October has been 0.68 degrees Celsius higher than the 20th century average, which could lead to severe repercussions for coastal cities and desert communities as ocean levels rise and water becomes a scarce commodity. “Most notably, this record warmth is not contained to any specific part of the world. Meaning, we are all in this together,” said CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam. “So far this year, record-breaking warmth has been observed in at least every continent and major ocean basin of our planet. This is something we cannot ignore.” Read More…

1) Most of the World’s Greenhouse Gas Pollution Comes From 90 Companies

True, without government commitments to regulation, climate change will only get worse, but it’s important to remember that the private sector is pumping out the gases that are actually warming our planet. And it’s a much smaller percentage of the private sector than you may think. In November, Richard Heede, a researcher from the Climate Accountability Institute, revealed that less than 100 companies are responsible for 63 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. Read More...

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