Is this a Climate Turning Point?
2022. Will this be the year that Earth crawls back from the brink of climate catastrophe?
I’m betting that in 2022 the world finally and irreversibly realizes the folly of spilling fossil fuels into the atmosphere unchecked. I see three reasons for optimism amidst the hardship of the daily climate news.
First, the United States has adopted the nation’s first major climate legislation, the Inflation Reduction Act, which perhaps should be called the Emissions Reduction Act instead. Whatever the name, the U.S., as the largest historical emitter, has leveled the playing field with fossil fuels by incentivizing the production of renewable energy and the accelerated adoption of electric vehicles and appliances. The IRA also resets the legal parameters for developing new regulations to address emissions from power plants. The long tail of positive effects cannot be overestimated.
The Loire River in Varades, France, on Aug. 18.
Photographer: Jean-Michel Delage/Hans Lucas/Redux
Second, the moving images and snapshots of droughts and deluges around the world have struck a visceral cord. “The World’s Rivers, Canals and Reservoirs Are Turning to Dust,” screamed the headline on Bloomberg News, in a fascinating story by Brian K. Sullivan. Photos of the world’s major rivers from the Loire to the Yangtze drying down to sand were shocking, and will affect many major economies. “The Earth’s rising temperatures have meant mountain ranges are getting less snow, leaving less water to flow down to streams in summer during the melt, said Isla Simpson, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado…The world’s hotter temperatures also mean that waterways are literally evaporating away. Or as Richard Seager puts it, the warming atmosphere “is sucking more moisture from the land surface.” At the same time, countries like Pakistan are witnessing record-breaking and tragic downpours and deluges. I may never relinquish the terrifying and tragic video of five brothers being washed away as their landbridge gets eroded under their feet. (One brother survived.) The water-climate connection will be indelibly marked by all who view the alternating images of dry rivers and rampaging floods, often in the same region.
Third, is there a person alive who hasn’t been personally affected by climate change now? Rules and regulations around water use are changing. Prices for agricultural commodities are increasing, in part because extreme heat and drought has reduced yields. Individual reaction to climate change is now borne personally and universally. The range and severity of effects may vary due to geography, timing and wealth. But no one is exempt from having to take climate into account. And that is a very good thing for building momentum towards further and faster climate action. So remember 2022 as the turning point for having turned climate awareness into climate action.
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