5 Things We Learned About Sustainability in 2013

January 13, 2014- In 2013, polls showed greater concern for the planet, with Americans broadly supporting President Obama's climate change announcement, for instance, and Chinese authorities concluding that life-shortening air pollution is an unacceptable price to pay for economic growth. But the big news from 2013 came from gains in knowledge. Consider the following:
1) Overspending the Carbon Budget: This year's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report again confirmed the overwhelming scientific consensus that the world is warming, and that it's caused by human activities. For the first time, these scientists also identified a “carbon budget” or the emissions the world can release while still having a chance of limiting warming to 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F). At present, we're on track to burn through this budget within the next 30 years.
2) Losing Forests 50 Soccer Fields a Minute:  A new report in Science showed that the world has been losing 13 million hectares of forest each year. That's equivalent to the size of England. But using satellite data, this research provides the first-ever high-resolution, global picture of forest cover change over the last 13 years. WRI's Global Forest Watch will use satellite imagery to chronicle forest cover change on a free, online mapping application.
3) Energy Subsidies: $2 Trillion: This year, the IMF quantified the extent of energy subsidies. Governments are spending $500 million each year to encourage the wasteful use of fossil fuel. When taking into account the level of taxation on other goods and the fact that energy has an adverse impact on climate, the true subsidy amounts to $2 trillion a year.
4) Wasting Food: It's Worse than We Thought: Sustainably feeding 9 billion people by 2050 is one of the greatest challenges of our era. According to WRI analysis, we will need to produce 69 percent more food calories to achieve this goal. And yet, at present, the world wastes or loses around one-third of all food by volume, and around one-quarter by calorie value.
5) Risky Water: In the 2013 World Economic Forum's survey of top risks, leaders chose water risk in the top three of 50 risks. More than 1.2 billion people live in water-scarce regions. Others battle pollution, flooding, and variable supplies. Yet most countries and businesses lack high-quality data on the water risks they face. New technologies enable water risks -- drought, floods, pollution -- to be measured and predicted much more accurately than ever before.
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