As 2022 draws to a close, we are left with chilling evidence that global warming is a force unlike any we have ever encountered. And we are not in any way manning our battle stations with the tools to battle it. In a year that saw some victories — the passage of the most comprehensive climate change legislation in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the election of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest champion Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as the president, the inclusion of Loss and Damage for climate vulnerable countries at COP27’s conclusion in November — it is undoubtedly the extreme droughts, heatwaves, wildfires, and floods which are imprinted on our consciousness.
Here are a few end-of-the-year stories depicting the state of our planet.
Yale Environment 360 provides Stunning Satellite Images of Our Changing Planet in 2022, including August’s Pakistan floods, drought ravaged rice fields in southern California, the conversion of Bolivia’s Chiquitano dry forest into farmland, and retreating glaciers in Greenland.
Humans are reshaping the Earth in unprecedented ways, both by turning vast tracts of wilderness into farms and cities and by altering the global climate, fueling more intense fires, floods, heat, and drought.
The Guardian presents an Environmental review of 2022: another mile on the ‘highway to climate hell’, selecting two events that symbolize the global environmental crisis: the Pakistani floods and the potential saving of the Amazon Rainforest thanks to the re-election of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as the president of Brazil.
Overall, however, the climate crisis is bleaker than it has ever been. In October, a slew of reports laid bare how close the planet had neared to irreversible climate breakdown, with one UN study stating there was “no credible pathway in place to 1.5C”, the internationally agreed limit for global heating, and that progress on cutting carbon emissions was “woefully inadequate”.
Scientists had revealed in September that five “disastrous” tipping points may already have been passed due to the 1.1C of global heating to date. These included the collapse of Greenland’s ice cap, eventually producing a huge sea level rise and the collapse of a key current in the north Atlantic, disrupting rain upon which billions of people depend for food.
To maintain global heating at the recommended 1.5C limit, carbon emissions must decrease by 50% by 2030, the Guardian reports, noting that this year emissions will have risen to a record level.
“We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator,” said the UN secretary general, António Guterres at the UN Climate Summit.
The Guardidan last August analyzed the impact the climate crisis is having on individuals around the globe, who are losing their means of survival and their lives in floods, heatwaves, droughts, and wildfires.
Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s climate minister, said in September:
“This dystopia is on our doorstep; it’s going to be next in their country [in the global north]. If you’re not understanding that it’s right here, right now, then you’re really sleepwalking into annihilation.”
MYTHS ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE
USA Today reports These lies about climate change just wouldn’t die in 2022, examining why myths about climate change continue to circulate. The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication conducted Surveys that determined only 8% to 9% of Americans totally disavow global warming, with a majority of these embracing conspiracy theories. Among the theories: alternative energy sources are causing power grid problems; that it’s too late to address global warming; and that climate change is a leftist position.
“I call them ‘zombie arguments’ because you can explain that they’re not true but they still go stumbling around because they’re not about facts but excuses.” Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist and professor at Texas Tech University.
The number of people displaced by climate change continued to grow in 2022 as millions around the globe are being forced from their homes by rising seas, droughts, wildfires, and flooding.
Last year, disasters internally displaced some 23.7 million people, according to the Internal Displacement Migration Centre.
Andrew Harper, special advisor on climate action to the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR), said many areas of the world are also now being hit by such relentless spells of disasters that efforts to help people adapt to a shifting climate are failing.
In parts of Mozambique, where about a million people are displaced, in part by lingering civil strife, families are hit by “cyclone after cyclone … and if they’re not being hit by a cyclone they’re being hit by droughts,” Harper said.
Among the 6 climate wins from 2022 that are worth celebrating, the Insider includes the US Inflation Reduction Act, the election in Brazil of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and a global focus on the world’s oceans.
At COP27 In Egypt last November, Oceans had its own pavilion for the first time.
“The presence of the Ocean Pavilion helped elevate awareness of the potential opportunities for the ocean to play a central role in one day removing more planet-warming carbon from the atmosphere than human activity puts there each year.” Peter B. de Menocal, president of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution