Distracted by a possible coup in the US? Here are some headlines you might have missed.

A young person holds up a sign that reads “This is NOT fine” at the Toronto climate strike in September 2019 — Photo Credit: Allan Lissner

By Atiya Jaffar, Senior Digital Specialist for 350 Canada

It’s been nearly impossible to take our eyes off the horrifying political drama unfurling south of the border. But as captivating as it may be, we can’t lose sight of the shocking climate-related stories making the news as well. We’re just 2 weeks into 2021 and, already, we’re seeing record-breaking warming, climate disasters, and unbelievably out-of-touch decisions by our very own political leaders. Luckily, it’s not all bad news. People-powered movements are pushing back and gearing up for some big fights ahead at the cusp of this new decade.

1. Canada greenlights three offshore drilling projects

Yup, while we were all rapt by news south of the border, Trudeau’s Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson quietly approved 3 offshore projects off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Now, in the middle of a climate emergency, BHP Petroleum, Equinor Canada, and Chevron have the green light to endanger delicate marine ecosystems on Canada’s east coast to extract more climate-wrecking fossil fuels.

2. Mild start to 2021 in the North with record-breaking temperatures

Early in the new year, some northern communities in Nunavut went from experiencing extreme cold temperatures to a sharp increase by 30 C in the span of 24 hours. This is not normal.

And as our friends at Our Time Yellowknife point out, this CBC article on the extreme temperature swing fails to note that Canada’s north is warming at 3X the global average. This is an alarming pattern which could have dire consequences for those living in the North, and the media is failing to make critical climate connections.

3. Taking the boat to school in flooded Western Kenya

On the first day back at school after COVID restrictions were lifted, children in Kisumu county in Kenya faced an unexpected series of surprises. First, due to an overflowing Lake Victoria, they had to take a boat to school. When they finally arrived, they found their classrooms flooded with no teachers in sight. In the last few years, communities surrounding Lake Victoria have struggled with repeated cycles of flooding and extreme, unpredictable weather systems.

4. Climate change: Weakened ‘ice arches’ speed loss of Arctic floes

Some of the oldest, thickest floes in the Arctic Ocean, that would typically form an impenetrable ice wall this time in January, are weakening. They are forming for shorter periods of time, with a growing strait emerging among them. Arctic researchers say this “bodes ill for the long-term retention of all sea-ice in the region.”

5. 22 disasters, 262 dead, $95bn in damages: US saw record year for climate-driven catastrophes

From the apocalyptic wildfires in California to a record of 12 tropical storms on the east coast, federal agencies in the United States just took stock of the damage caused by climate-fuelled disaster in 2020, and the results are shocking. Experts say, “hopefully this is the year where we finally see the sort of action, by the US and the rest of the world, that is necessary to prevent things from getting worse.” It’s clear that a change in leadership couldn’t come fast enough.

California fires. A firefighter douses flames in Madera County (2020). AFP/Getty Images

6. 2020 ties with 2016 for hottest year on record, European climate change service says

As if 2020 didn’t already have enough baggage, we’re now learning that it has tied with 2016 for hottest year on record globally. And, on top of that, it closes off the hottest decade globally which was characterized by intensifying climate impacts. Let’s hope that the sobering statistics from this decade act as a catalyst for our political leaders.

7. Alberta ranchers resist plans to ease coal mining rules

At the end of last year, the government of Alberta decided to rescind decades of environmental protections and open up the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains to open-pit coal mining. That’s right. In the midst of a climate crisis, Alberta’s giving industry a greenlight to pillage the pristine ecosystems of the Rockies to extract the dirtiest fossil fuel on the planet. Fortunately, this atrocious decision won’t go unchallenged. Several First Nations and Alberta ranchers have launched legal actions to resist these new rules. As they say, “there is no reclaiming an open-pit mine.”

8. Our Best Chance for a Climate Safe Future? Local Power

Resistance to climate inaction is building everywhere. And it’s giving us reasons to be hopeful in 2021. Avery Shannon and Naia Lee, climate justice organizers on the west coast, break down how young climate activists successfully campaigned for Vancouver City Council to pass a highly ambitious climate emergency action plan.

This victory demonstrates that building power in our local communities is the antidote we need in the face of a climate emergency. And it also shows that federal, provincial, and territorial governments have a lot to learn from their local counterparts.

It’s true, a potential fascist insurrection in the United States is a frightening possibility. But as we follow that developing story, let’s not lose sight of the equally frightening climate impacts that are unfolding globally and in our very own communities, or the powerful and lasting change we can create when we take action together.

Make sure to share this blog with your friends and family. And if you’re ready to take action in the new year to demand real ambition from our political leaders, click here.

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