From U.S. climate action to growing global water risks, 2013 brought its share of highs and lows for the environment and development. WRI’s experts responded to these events with their own commentary, research, and analysis—and it’s clear that our readers were paying attention. Check out a handful of WRI’s most popular blog posts of 2013:
1. Peering through Forest Fire Haze:
Indonesia’s forest fires spread record-breaking haze to parts of Malaysia, Singapore, and southeast Asia this past summer. Using concession maps and the latest satellite data, WRI’s experts analyzed the location of the fires, determining that roughly half of them were occurring on timber and oil palm plantations.
2. Mapping Water Risks:
WRI’s Aqueduct project released its updated water risk maps in early 2013, providing one of the most comprehensive looks at global water security. Further analysis of this and other data revealed that 37 countries currently face extremely high levels of baseline water stress, while one-quarter of world’s agriculture grows in water-stressed regions.
3. China’s Sustainability Challenges and Opportunities:
While China’s economic growth has helped achieve development gains, the country grapples with how to overcome its sustainability challenges. We saw that struggle play out this year. While China responded to its growing air pollution with an ambitious action plan, the initiative could threaten water supplies and may be insufficient in curbing the nation’s appetite for coal. At the same time, China took a major step to decrease its hydrofluorocarbon (HFCs) emissions and provided $40 billion to overseas solar and wind development over the past decade.
4. Charting a Sustainable Food Future:
Figuring out how to feed a projected 9.6 billion people by 2050—while also protecting the environment and fostering rural development—is one of the great challenges of our generation. WRI contextualized this problem—and outlined a few solutions—through a series of 18 graphics.
5. A New U.S. Climate Plan:
President Obama announced the most comprehensive U.S. Climate Action Plan to date this past June. The plan closely aligned with the recommendations of WRI’s report, Can the U.S. Get There from Here?, calling for increased energy efficiency and reduced power plant, HFCs, and methane emissions.
6. Natural Gas’s Environmental Implications:
WRI researchers explored the problem of “fugitive methane,” emissions that escape along various points of the natural gas supply chain. Our recent publication, Clearing the Air, outlines ways that industry and government can cost-effectively reduce fugitive methane.
7. Sustainable Transport in India:
India’s cities are growing at an unprecedented pace. The country’s urban population is expected to increase from 377 million people in 2011 to 590 million by 2030. Discussions from April’s ConnectKARO conference highlighted five ways to scale sustainable transport solutions in India’s cities.
8. Lessons in Corporate Sustainability:
While some corporations are emerging as leaders, many businesses face barriers that prevent them from integrating environmental sustainability into their everyday operations. WRI’s working paper, Aligning Profit and Environmental Sustainability: Stories from Industry, explores ways companies can overcome these challenges.
9. A True Picture of Global Forest Loss:
The first high-resolution, global picture of forest cover change over the past 13 years reveals that the world loses 50 soccer fields’ of forest every minute of every day! Three findings from the new data point to solutions policymakers can pursue now to reduce deforestation.
10. Harnessing the Power of “Green Infrastructure”:
A handful of U.S. cities are starting to secure clean water by using “green infrastructure”—such as forests and wetlands—rather than or in addition to “gray infrastructure” like filtration plants or mechanical chillers. Villagers in India are also using a similar approach as a way of adapting to the impacts of climate change.
11. Understanding the “Carbon Budget”:
The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report revealed world’s “carbon budget,” the amount of emissions we can release while still having a likely change of limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius. The world is currently on track to blow through this budget within 30 years.