It’s been a banner year for extreme weather, but we’ve made great strides in tackling climate change.
Extensive climate legislation has been passed, climate candidates have won, and animals have gained important protections.
Here are six of the year’s highlights in climate progress, according to experts.
It was a year of record heat, floods and other natural disasters. Severe droughts hit parts of the globe The latest report from the UN climate panel has provided a grim prognosis for our planet if ambitious climate goals are not met.
But despite it all, there has been encouraging progress on climate that is worth celebrating.
Insider asked environmental experts for a year-end review of the crucial wins. Here are six developments they think should give us hope in the coming new year.
The United States has passed the most radical climate law ever enacted in the nation
In August, President Joe Biden signed into law the sweeping Inflation Reduction Act. Nearly $369 billion in the new law will go towards clean energy tax credits.
“This year feels like a breakthrough. After more than three decades of effort, the United States has finally passed comprehensive climate legislation,” Leah Stokes, a professor of political science at the University of California, told Insider by email. Santa Barbara. “All told, there are hundreds of billions of dollars available for climate progress.”
An analysis by Princeton University researchers estimates that the bill’s climate provisions will reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 42 percent from 2005 levels by the end of the decade.
Climate candidates have won in races with the stakes for the environment
This year there were high stakes elections that could shape the future of our planet. “Globally, the climate candidates have won in Australia and Brazil,” Stokes said.
In Brazil, two-time former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva defeated far-right president Jair Bolsonaro. During Bolsonaro’s tenure, Brazil cleared large swathes of the Amazon rainforest for farmland, accelerating deforestation. Overall, deforestation has increased by more than 50% during his presidency, according to the Brazilian Ministry of Science.
In contrast, during Lula’s previous years in office, deforestation in the Amazon fell by more than 80 percent. The newly elected president promises to fight deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.
In Australia, the country’s new prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has vowed to herald a new era in climate action with tougher emissions reduction targets.
“Together we can end the climate wars,” he said in his victory speech, Reuters reported. “Together we can capitalize on Australia’s opportunity to be a renewable energy superpower.”
Global climate negotiations have focused on the world’s oceans
This year’s COP27, a United Nations conference on climate change, was held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.
Peter B. de Menocal, president of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, told Insider that the event hosted the first Ocean Pavilion.
“It was a win for the ocean and recognition of the critical role it plays in our global climate,” said de Menocal.
The ocean absorbs 90 percent of the excellent heat and absorbs about 30 percent of the carbon dioxide we emit into the atmosphere, according to NOAA.
“The presence of the Ocean Pavilion has helped raise 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 “, he added.
Emperor penguins have been granted protections under the Endangered Species Act
There are as many as 650,000 emperor penguins in Antarctica, according to the US Fish & Wildlife Service.
That population could shrink by 26% to 47% by 2050 due to “low and high carbon emissions scenarios, respectively,” the agency said.
In October, the flightless seabird received protection under the Endangered Species Act, a law enacted in 1973 to protect vulnerable wildlife.
“It was a much-needed victory for the species,” de Menocal said, adding that the climate crisis could make emperor penguins virtually extinct by 2100. The list provides tools for designating and protecting their dwindling habitat.
“It also promotes international cooperation on conservation strategies, increases funding for conservation programs, stimulates research and provides concrete threat reduction tools, all of which are critical steps in saving this iconic bird,” he added.
A year of increased efforts to fight plastic pollution
Humans currently go through around 330 million tonnes of plastic each year, yet only 9% of global plastic waste is recycled, according to the United Nations.
This year, the Los Angeles City Council passed a law making single-use foods available only on request for takeout and home delivery.
“When you order takeout, you’re not automatically given plastic utensils, straws or condiments,” Judith Enck, founder and president of Beyond Plastics, an environmental organization working to fight plastic pollution, told Insider. “Not only does this reduce waste, but it also saves restaurants money.”
Similar legislation is already making its way across the United States, in places like Denver, Colorado and New York City.
An indigenous patrol in the Amazon won a ‘green Nobel’
The Cofán community along the banks of the Aguarico River in Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest established an indigenous patrol, known as La Guardia, in 2017, to repel the growing encroachment of miners on their ancestral lands.
They wrote their own law, allowing patrol members to confiscate equipment and call Ecuador’s environmental police if they find violators in the area.
The patrol’s work and subsequent legal success earned Alex Lucitante and Alexandra Narvaez a 2022 Goldman Environmental Prize for grassroots environmental activism, known as the “Green Nobel”.
“I want to invite other indigenous communities in Ecuador and around the world to join these collective struggles taking place in the Amazon,” Lucitante previously told Insider. “We are dreaming of a world where our communities, with their knowledge and culture, can continue to live.”
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