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10 MAJOR CLIMATE STORIES OF 2022

The following was submitted to the Waco Tribune Herald by Alan Northcutt:

As the end of 2022 approaches, we consider ten of the most important stories on the climate crisis from the thousands of stories reported. 

Global Climate Impacts. The year 2022 saw 29 billion-dollar weather disasters:  14 thunderstorms/tornadoes, 5 droughts, 3 tropical cyclones, 1 European  windstorm, and 6 floods.  In Europe, heatwaves claimed 16,000 lives. Drought desiccated the Horn of Africa, threatening famine for 21 million in Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia. One-third of Pakistan was submerged in floodwaters, and 75% of its livestock perished.  And to erase any doubt that climate breakdown is happening NOW,  a report announced that a shocking 90% of U.S. counties had experienced a weather-related disaster in the previous ten years.

Waco Climate Impacts.   Waco experienced an intense heatwave, near record drought, water shortage, and agricultural damage in 2022, features of a warming planet. Waco endured 68 days of 100 degrees F, second only in number to the year 2011.  The county has been in drought for over one year, with the most intense drought level (exceptional, D4) this summer, and persistent severe (D2) throughout the county now.  In fact, the drought is considered of similar severity to the worst droughts in Texas history, those in the 1950s and 2011. With heatwave and drought,  Lake Waco was  7ft. below normal level, and the City was placed on Stage 2 water use restriction  in July 2022.  On Dec. 22 Lake Waco was still only 57% full, and Stage 2 water restrictions persist.  Agricultural damage included extensive loss of the cotton crop,  corn and wheat injury, and inadequate water and grass for cattle ranching.   Although weather extremes similar to 2022  have occurred before, climate science is clear that anthropogenic climate change makes them more frequent and more severe.   Although there is fear of the term “climate change” in local citizens and some media, ignoring climate breakdown will not diminish it. 

IPCC AR6.  Although the visible impacts of the climate crisis are overwhelming, the periodic Assessment Reports (ARs) of The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are eagerly                   anticipated.  In 2022, the AR6, on mitigation (ipcc.ch/report/sixth-assessment), a review of the entire world literature, was released.  This massive reference details emission cutting strategies in categories of energy, agriculture and land use, buildings, transport, and industry.  The report warned that  the world is on a trajectory for a dangerous 2.4 degree C of warming by 2100, and “unless there are immediate and deep emission reductions across all sectors, 1.5degrees C is beyond reach.”  This report contained the strongest warning to date from the IPCC—directed at us all. 

COP27.  The annual UN climate summit brought together some 35,000 heads of state, negotiators, scientists, activists, and industrial representatives from 190 countries in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.  After thirty years of struggle and suffering, the world’s developing nations received a commitment from the wealthy nations to create a fund to compensate them for the “loss and damage” they have suffered as a result of the wealthy nations’ greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  Unfortunately, on the core task of creating new strategies to slash the globe’s GHG emissions, no significant progress was made.

Kigali Amendment.  In October, the US Senate ratified, and the President signed the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol.  The US joined 137 countries in the phaseout of the hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) refrigerants, which are very potent GHGs.  By replacing HFCs with non-GHG refrigerants, the planet will save a vital 0.5C of warming by 2100.  Individuals and businesses should now demand non-GHG refrigerants in HVAC systems and refrigeration devices. 

Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).  The IRA commits $369 billion to combat the climate crisis, the largest climate action bill in US history.  The major climate provisions are incentives for US supply chains for wind, solar, carbon capture, green hydrogen, sustainable aviation fuels;  tax credits for efficient buildings, EV purchases, heat pumps, EV charging, solar installation, and energy research.  Permitting reform will speed development of renewable energy projects, but unfortunately fossil fuel infrastructure as well.  The bill is projected to decrease US carbon emissions 40% by 2030, nearing the 45% IPCC target—a momentous climate victory when completed.   

COP15.  As the climate crisis threatens biodiversity, so too the loss of biodiversity worsens the climate crisis.  And vertebrate animal populations have declined a shocking 69% over the last 50 years, according to the World Wildlife Fund.  To combat this biodiversity crisis,  195 nations assembled in Montreal for the COP15 Biodiversity Conference.  Successfully, members signed 23 targets to safeguard the natural world,  mandatory within one decade.  The most important target is to pristinely maintain at least 30 percent of the planet’s land and waters by 2030, a policy termed “30 by 30.” 

The War in Ukraine.  Because of the supply interruption of fossil gas from Russia, the war has increased the use of coal.  However, the long-term impact of the war on the transition to clean, renewable energy is controversial. Dr. Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the highly respected International Energy Agency, recently stated:  “ Today’s crisis is a reminder of the unsustainability of our reliance on fossil fuels and can be a key turning point to move faster towards a cleaner, more affordable and more secure energy system.”  We hope Dr. Birol’s projection becomes reality.

The City of Waco & Climate Action. At the July 19th  Council meeting, councilpersons Meek, Borderud, Barefield, and Palmer stated their concern about anthropogenic climate change, and pledged to lower the City’s carbon footprint.  And beginning in Jan. 2022, the new electricity contract for municipal buildings was for 100% renewable energy, solar panels were installed on the new 25th St. fire station, and a half dozen EVs were purchased.  But it became obvious the Council did not really consider climate an emergency, as it was not a priority in Council business.  Opportunities for electric transportation were consistently ignored, building standards remained unchanged, and solar installation halted.  And then Kelly Palmer, the one sincere friend of climate action, resigned from the Council—dashing hope for robust action.  

Electrify Everything.  Buildings, commercial and residential, produce 30-40% of GHG emissions in the US.  Thus, in 2022 “electrify everything” became a mantra for decreasing the climate warming derived from these structures.  Individuals, businesses, churches, and governments can contribute by installing photovoltaic systems with batteries, EV chargers, electric stoves, heat pumps, utility-responsive thermostats, heat pump water heaters, and electric clothes driers.  These actions will also improve indoor air quality and human health.    

In October, the peer-reviewed “World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency 2022” noted that  “We are now at ‘code red’ on planet Earth. . .  Rather than lose hope, we must immediately pursue massive-scale climate change mitigation and adaptation. This is the only way we can limit the near-term damage, preserve nature, avoid untold human suffering, and give future generations the opportunities they deserve.”

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