This Year Could Be a Climate Turning Point

This Year Could Be a Climate Turning Point

These last two months of 2022 could be a climate turning point. The Washington Post reports that three major developments could help put the world on the path to stop -- or at least slow -- global warming.

The first is the election of leftist Luis Ignácio Lula da Silva as Brazil’s new president, ousting the far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro. In an expression of staunch anti-indigenous, pro-corporate stances and demagogic tendencies, Bolsonaro spent his presidency destroying the Amazon rainforest, one of the world’s most crucial carbon stores. During Bolsonaro’s first three years in office, the Amazon lost over 8.4 million acres. President-elect Lula, on the other hand, has recognized the many values of the rainforest and promised to restore it: "Brazil is ready to retake its leadership in the fight against the climate crisis,” Lula said in a victory speech in Sao Paulo. "Brazil and the planet need a living Amazon.”

Bloomberg: Brazil's Lula Vows 'Zero Deforestation' of Amazon After Bolsonaro Defeat, October 31, 2022.

Vox: Brazil’s Lula da Silva, explained, October 25, 2022.

New York Times: Brazil’s Presidential Election Will Determine the Planet’s Future | NYT Opinion, October 28, 2022.

Guardian: Bolsonaro’s war on the Amazon | Examining evidence of crimes against Indigenous people, September 6, 2022.

A second major development came in a new report released by the International Energy Agency (IEA) -- based on current projections, global carbon emissions from energy will peak in 2025. The Russian invasion of Ukraine sent gas prices skyrocketing, and as a result, it seemed that many governments were leaving climate commitments behind in favor of continued oil drilling. But in the long-term, the IEA forecasts that this energy crisis will actually speed up the transition to renewables. Already, clean energy investment around the world has increased by 50%, adding up to 1.3 trillion US dollars, according to IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. Though these investments have been driven by desires for energy security, they will also massively benefit the environment and pave the way for future clean energy development.

IEA: World Energy Outlook 2022, October 27, 2022.

Forbes Middle East: IEA | Global Emissions To Increase 2022, By Less Than 1%, October 19, 2022.

The third climate victory is the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in the US, which devotes $369 billion to climate efforts. The bill leaves many feeling optimistic. As Jennifer Layke, Global Director of the energy program at the World Resources Institute, told the Washington Post

NBC News: Breaking Down The Inflation Reduction Act’s Impact On Healthcare and Climate, August 17, 2022.

Why This Matters

Climate scientists have been urging governments and corporations to reduce emissions for decades, and now. But climate policy is finally catching up -- coalitions across the world are taking action to protect the environment. Last year, Germany set ambitious climate targets including a goal to achieve an electric grid powered by 80% renewables by 2030. Though the nation reneged on these commitments in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in July of this year Germany underscored the importance of cutting back fossil fuels. Australia, too, began to implement a more ambitious climate agenda in the face of a powerful coal lobby that had thwarted the nation’s attempts of climate action at every turn.

BBC: UN scientists say it’s ‘now or never’ to limit global warming, April 4, 2022.

CNBC: We are in an epic transition from a fossil fuel economy to a clean energy economy | John Doerr, June 27, 2022.

Reuters: Germany aims to get 100% of energy from renewable sources by 2035, March 5, 2022.

Sky: Australia pledge to become a climate change role model, June 5, 2022.

A Case for Climate Optimism

In the Guardian, columnist Rebecca Huntley makes the case for a more optimistic view of the climate crisis. She argues that extreme pessimism -- including the frequent, fatalistic warnings that we are about to reach a point of no return for inevitable climate breakdown -- makes people feel so hopeless they just tune out.

Instead, she suggests that retaining a sense of possibility around preventing the worst consequences of climate change could help spur the public into action.

TED: How to Find Joy in Climate Action | Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, June 21, 2022.

The New School: Hope in the Time of Climate Crisis, April 21, 2022.

"Voters and communities have the chance right now to shape the nature of this energy revolution we are already experiencing,” she writes. “It’s not just about wind farms and green hydrogen, with social disadvantages worse than it was during our fossil fuel heyday. That means we must amplify the voices and choices of the people who are the most exposed to climate impacts and the ones most at risk if we just act quickly and forget about fairly.”

WION: Climate Tracker | Greek electric grid runs on 100% green energy for first time, October 15, 2022.

Forbes: Schumer Touts 'One Of The Most Significant Bipartisan Measures The Senate Takes On All Year,' September 20, 2022.

WTVR CBS6: Wind turbines produced more electricity than coal and nuclear energy for the 1st time in the US, April 22, 2022.

CBS (Canada): Oil-rich Texas sees clean energy boom, March 25, 2022.

TED: Climate Optimism | Buidling our Future with better tools | Adam Dorr, October 20, 2021.