Everything you need to know about the state of the environment in 2022

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Recently a few friends and I gathered around a patio for a makeshift holiday party. We were outside and we got away socially again, and a friend had her new baby with them. Maybe because there was a little human present, with her whole life ahead of her, we got to talk about the future and how so many spooky things we imagined about what climate change would look like are like. become reality in 2021.

From the crippling freezes of last January in Texas to those of last week unprecedented fire outside of Boulder, Colorado, we have the impression that we have been struck by one disaster after another. And the systems that must change to ensure our future viability have been too slow to respond. But as the new year begins, there are opportunities to make real progress. This is where the climate and the environment stand, including the issues we urgently need to address and the things that are already moving in the right direction.

The bad:

Species are in decline

In September, the US Fish and Wildlife Service removed 23 species from the endangered list and declared them faded away. It came on the heels of a June United Nations Report announcing that human-caused climate change is worsening the biodiversity crisis. We have seen the decline of specific species, like Florida manatees, which have lost 10 percent of their population to starvation in 2021 because they could not find enough seagrass. We also had to consider this sobering fact: a million species, 25% of what exists on earth is threatened with extinction. And, as the UN report says, “Biodiversity loss and climate change are both driven by human economic activities and are mutually reinforcing. Neither will be resolved successfully unless both are addressed together.

Natural disasters are more and more frequent and intense

Every corner of the country has been hit by exceptionally brutal weather events, which scientists say are exacerbated by climate change. June heat domes in the northwest killed hundreds and August hurricanes in the southeast razed entire cities. Deadly tornadoes landed from Arkansas to Kentucky in December, and a California wildfire season that began last January has raged year round. In the pavement of these natural disasters, we have lost at least 500 people and suffered more than $ 18 billion in damage. The weather and climate are not the same thing, but the unusual number and strength of these deadly weather events point to the effects of global warming and how much worse things could be in the future.

Our energy infrastructure is more vulnerable than ever

Remember when the Texas power grid was destroyed by a winter storm in February that cut power to millions of people? Well Texans are just as vulnerable to another deep frost today. And the other major grid systems (the United States at three) find it difficult to protect themselves from currents natural disasters and prepare for future storms.

We have also found that our grids are unprepared for a range of critical new renewable sources. While certain state policies now encourage renewable energies, we do not yet have the infrastructure to support them. We need more high voltage transmission lines that can be linked to solar and wind power, and we need to find ways to integrate renewables on a small scale with public services.

Fossil fuel extraction is alive and well

We know that a rapid withdrawal from fossil fuels is essential to avoid a drastic rise in temperatures, but drilling and rental reform is not progressing very quickly at the federal level. Biden administration approved no more drilling permits on the public domain than the previous administration, opening over 80 million acres offshore for oil drilling. If we are to avoid catastrophic temperatures, next year we need the president to respect his campaign promise to finish fossil fuel subsidies, and we need Interior Department curb drilling on public lands and reform lease and license fees. These two achievable steps could push us in the right direction on emissions while helping the federal budget.

The West’s water supply is in a desperate strait

If you want proof that everything is connected, our energy system could soon be affected by the mega-drought that has ravaged much of the western United States. , their lowest levels ever recorded, triggering the first Colorado River water shortage declared. And these drops in water levels have a direct impact on Lake Powell’s Glen Canyon Dam, a major energy source for five million people in the region. Water levels could drop enough to impact the dam ability to create power somewhere this year.

The best:

States compromise on water use

When the Colorado River water shortage was declared, it triggered the first in a series of reductions agreed to by states dependent on the river in 2019, starting with Arizona receiving less water after January 2022. These States also agreed to the very first voluntary agreement. reduction of their water consumption in December. It’s a sign of compromise and concession in a generally controversial battle, as the reality is that soon there won’t be enough for everyone.

We have returned to international climate conversations

One of the first actions of President Biden in office was a much celebrated commitment to to rejoin the Paris climate agreement and cut US emissions by 25 percent by 2025. But we are already behind these targets. And sadly, international climate talks have been milquetoast, especially this year’s COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, where countries were supposed to revise the Paris agreement. Two of the biggest emitters, China and Russia, haven’t signed on, and the new emission reduction targets aren’t even close to what we need to avoid frying the planet. Plus, no one did a great job hitting the old goals anyway. Only Gambia that’s where it should be.

Congress passed some laws, but hampered significant climate progress

Speaking of milquetoast, Congress was fortunate to pass legislation that could address myriad threats to climate stability, food security, biodiversity, and the rest of our ecological health. But it has been an exhausting battle to get anything through a tightly-locked partisan Senate. In November, Congress passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which addresses issues such as clean water and electricity. But West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin actually killed the Build Back Better Act last month, which would have done most of the necessary work to reduce emissions, including tax credits for electric vehicles. Without it, we’ll have a hard time getting closer to the emission levels we need to fight global warming. And the Biden administration is running out of time to act on the climate, as the midterm elections could change the balance of Congress.

The Promising Woman:

Electric vehicles are more and more popular

There is nothing like consumerism to motivate people to save the planet. Global sales of electric vehicles increased by 80% compared to last year. A group of automakers, including Ford, GM, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover and Volvo, have signed a commitment for all of their new zero-emission cars by 2040. And sales are expected to continue to explode in 2022, as automakers roll out a range of new models, from Rivian trucks to compact Chevrolets.

More people are riding bikes

You know that boom in bike sales that happened at the start of the pandemic? People are riding bikes. Cycling is up to 10 percent across the country, and cities are building new cycle lanes to accommodate two-wheeler traffic.

Biden made excellent federal appointments

Deb Haaland made history when she was appointed Secretary of the Interior, becoming the first Native American to hold the post that oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs, among many other departments. In less than a year, she oversaw the creation of new solar farms, the restoration of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, and the renaming of culturally insensitive places.

There have been other notable appointments to federal land management agencies. In four years, the Trump administration has failed to find a confirmed candidate to head the National Park Service. Biden’s candidate, Chuck Sams, has a long history in tribal government and natural resource management and was quickly confirmed as head of the Park Service. In October, Tracy Stone-Manning was sworn in as director of the Bureau of Land Management. She is also the first person to officially hold the post since the Obama administration. Both say staffing agencies is a priority. Sams also intends to address infrastructure and access issues, and Stone-Manning is considering crucial decarbonization.

Biden Reverses Much of Trump’s Dangerous Environmental Deregulation

President Biden reinstated crucial elements of environmental policy that President Trump had weakened or erased, such as the stringent requirements of the National Environment Policy Act and methane emission standards. Biden now looks to reinstating more than a hundred regulations Trump rescinded, a project that could take his entire mandate accomplish.

Public lands and natural resources regain their protection

The best news of the past year has come in the form of landscape protection. In Utah, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monuments have been restored, Alaska Bristol Bay was protected against a proposed mine. Oil leases have been suspended in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and old trees have been protected in British Columbia. The Biden administration’s America the Beautiful initiative work retain 30 percent of the country by 2030, a goal that scientists say is important for slowing climate change. This year, we must continue our momentum for conservation. This will happen through sweeping federal designations, the preservation of local parks, and the conservation of private lands.

This year looks like a turning point. The basics are in place and we know what we need to do. Now we have to do it.

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