2022 – Bad. 2023 – Pause.
We start 2023 by wrapping up the key news from 2022, or should it be, the key non-news of 2022 - news that was alluded to but rarely made explicit. Unfortunately, all of it is quite depressing.
1. Climate change is here - 1.5-degree target breached
2. Change will be faster - 2.0-degree likely to be missed
3. West has a small heart - No money for climate change
4. Polar bears will be climate refugees - the Arctic to fully melt
5. Permafrost will melt - Massive methane release awaited
6. Goodbye Kiribati - Many island nations will vanish
7. Don’t know how to store - Battery prices not falling fast
8. Extinctions unabated - human footprint everywhere
9. It’s the economy stupid - Chindia are future climate villains
10. South Asia will suffer most - Bangladesh even more
The first battle against climate change has therefore been lost, humanity was just not up to the task. And so, we must gather our wits, regroup, and refocus before we move ahead. And the solution is also quite clear. In fact, there is only one solution. Invest in finding technologies to help (a) store energy cheaply and (b) extract and store greenhouse gases cheaply. No international agreement, global commitment, stated policy objectives, or legal and regulatory changes, are working well or will work in the future, so don’t waste anyone’s time with them. Such agreements like Net Zero or on plastics or on biodiversity are just buying time, they are not going to work, because they are not designed to. Humanity is seriously addicted to its immediate economic objectives. The only route to success on the climate front, therefore, lies through technology that can enable economic and environmental benefits simultaneously.
In this changed scenario, what should be the role of The UnEarth Bulletin? And, so after this week, we will take a pause, and ascertain our own way forward. I take this opportunity to thank you for your support and comments which have been instrumental in inspiring us to continue this unfunded activity through some difficult times. Please do give your feedback, on what we should change, and what we should not. I would also like to thank Aishwarya who has been diligently and quietly working behind the scenes to bring this to you every week, without fail.
Thank you again! Laveesh
My Top News
Little steps yet not insignificant!
In COP27 in Egypt, the participating countries agreed to create a "loss and damage" fund to compensate developing countries hit hardest by climate change. The deal focuses most on climate-vulnerable countries, and countries like India would be unlikely to benefit from it, however, for smaller developing countries this should bring welcome relief.
Europe announced that it will end the sale of any CO2-emitting cars by 2035, in other words, no fossil fuel cars, whether hybrid or even biodiesel will be allowed. Effectively, European countries have chosen EVs and EV hydrogen hybrids as the only cars that can ply their roads. But all those petrol cars will continue to use fossil fuels probably all the way till 2035.
Nations from around the world agreed to protect a third of the planet from nature by 2030. The goal is to safeguard biodiversity, with as many as 23 measurable targets being set up to protect vital ecosystems such as rainforests and wetlands, and the rights of indigenous peoples. This will be far easier for countries like Europe, but how do countries like India build their infrastructure if they do not use forest lands, or islands and ocean fronts, or rocks from hills?
The worst news of 2022 was the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, which spiked up the prices, created huge macroeconomic disturbances globally, and delayed investments in the environment. Countries from Germany to India were forced to look at coal as a continued viable option to meet their energy needs. On the positive side, high energy prices have also led to greater interest in moving away from fossil fuels altogether.
While Pakistan and Bangladesh suffered serious floods, India too suffered extreme climate unlike any other year before. ‘India recorded extreme weather events on 241 of the 273 days between January 1 and September 30, 2022. This means that more than 88 percent of the time over these nine months, the country was witnessing an extreme weather event of some sort happening in one or more of its regions’ and these extreme events ranged from ‘heat and cold waves, cyclones, lightning to heavy rain, floods and landslides claiming 2,755 lives, affecting 1.8 million hectares of crop area, destroying over 416,667 houses and close to 70,000 livestock.’ But this is not the end, another report from the World Bank that heatwaves in India can breach the human survivability limit.
President Lula’s environmental affinity is well known, whether it is the Amazon or the restoration of beaches, or even sanitation, Lula stands apart from many other global leaders. But it is easy for a populist to make statements, he has set for himself a tough set of objectives to be true to.
‘The legislation will raise about $700 billion through corporate tax increases and prescription drug savings, and it will spend about $400 billion on clean energy and health care provisions. The package falls short of what most Democrats and environmentalists wanted, but for a country going back in time during the Trump years, this is a welcome direction reversal.
My Top Good News of 2022
This start-up has just won £1m for its seaweed-based plastic alternative
Plant power: Scientists generate electricity from a shrub in renewables breakthrough
EU to impose world-first ‘carbon tariff’ on environmentally damaging imports
‘Significant breakthrough’: This new sea salt battery has 4 times the capacity of lithium
In Barcelona, kids are 'jumping out of bed' to join bike buses
Fully-recyclable 3D printed house made of ‘wood flour’ unveiled by researchers
Four EU countries are aiming for 100 percent clean power by 2030
Scientists dream up a massive floating solar farm in space
World-first nuclear fusion plant could generate carbon-free energy by 2040
Wolves, bears, and bison: 50 species make ‘spectacular’ comeback
Scientists predict the hole in the ozone layer will close in the next 50 years
Colourful solar panels could make green architecture more attractive
Australia's Great Barrier Reef shows best signs of coral recovery in 36 years
World’s largest vertical farm is being built in the UK and it’s the size of 96 tennis courts
Solar panels could be on all Europe's public buildings by 2025
Sweden’s innovative wooden skyscraper captures as much carbon as 10,000 forests
China opens its first vertical forest city to residents
Oceanographers rejoice after pristine coral reef discovery in Tahiti