The latest Climate Change News Digest for January 2022, prepared for followers of the PLM Green Global Alliance, summarizes recent news about the changing climate, including preliminary data from calendar year 2021. While many of the atmospheric climate trends are still negative, it does not diminish the recent progress in business, social, and political trends where the imperative to address sustainability, climate change, and decarbonization continue to gain momentum. I find much hope in this, as well as recently reading Jane Goodall’s new book “The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times” written with Douglas Abrams.
The UK-based Climate Brief organization and website issued their climate data for 2021. It confirmed another year of record ocean heat content, rising surface temperatures, extreme weather events, sea level rise, declining sea ice, and rising levels of CO2 and methane in the atmosphere.
Preliminary data from European scientists with the Copernicus Climate Change Service report that last year, 2021, was the planet’s fifth hottest year. The seven hottest years on record have been the last seven years. Some regions in the US and Europe reported experiencing their hottest summers on record.
According to preliminary data from NASA and NOAA, global temperatures in 2021 averaged 1.1 degree C above those prior to the industrial age. Temperatures are rising at about .20 degree per decade.
A new article in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences reports that the world’s oceans soaked up more heat and set record water temperatures during 2021. The second warmest water year was 2020, and the third was 2019. Scientists say that the planet’s oceans absorb about a third of the CO2 humans emit into the atmosphere. As a result, more than 90% of the heat generated over the pasts 50 years has found its way into the oceans.
Greenhouse gas emissions in the US surged in 2021 by over 6% due largely to a double-digit increase in coal-powered electricity as the pandemic-stricken economy roared back to life. Emissions from the transportation sector were reported to have increased by 10%. President Biden has called for reducing emissions by 50% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. To accomplish this, we should be reducing emissions by over 5% each year. Scientists report that humans have put about 1.5 trillion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. And we are adding on at the rate of 50 gigatons a year.
Over 8% of all weather stations in the US reported breaking all-time heat records during 2021. Some locations, such as cities in the Pacific Northwest, blew past their previous record by over 10 degrees.
The central US Midwest states of Kansas and Missouri reported their warmest average temperatures on record for the month of December. The average temps were over 2 degrees above their norm. Dozens of locations broke all-time high temperatures for the month, including an 80-degree Christmas day for one Kansas town. Decembers have been getting progressively warmer and dryer over the past few decades for much of the central US.
During 2021 it is reported that more than 40 percent of Americans lived in counties that were impacted by weather and climate disasters. There was rarely a week that went by when droughts, wildfires, floods, windstorms, record cold, record heat, tornados and other extreme events were not in the news. More than 650 people died and the cost surpassed $100 billion. The economic losses from global natural disasters during 2021 was reported to be $280 billion.
A recent study from Yale University of the US public’s attitudes reports that nearly six in ten Americans are now concerned or alarmed about climate change. As the effects of climate change become more obvious, those who are concerned are becoming more alarmed, nearly doubling in less than five years. Unfortunately, the percentage of the public who doubt climate change is happening, or dismiss the science all together, is not changing.
The EU is planning to classify nuclear and natural gas as green energy. They argue that the use of nuclear and natural gas will be necessary as a transition to truly green renewable energy sources will take years if not decades.
This is not stopping Germany from shutting down half of the six nuclear power plants still in operation. The remaining plants are to be decommissioned next year. However, this leaves Germany more dependent on natural gas imports from countries like Russia, that are busy creating havoc by threatening to invade other European countries where natural gas pipelines flow across.
Many fear the forces that fueled rampant anti-science disinformation and slowed the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic will only become worse as the world turns its attention to addressing climate change. Some worry that if people resisted vaccines saving lives right now, how likely are they to accept all the changes that will be required to save the planet for future generations?
👍 Young climate activist Greta Thunberg has called COP26 a failure and a PR event. In a recent interview about the state of the climate movement she went on to say that there was some progress as the f-words, fossil fuels, were finally included for the first time in the proceeding documentation.
Ice on the Great Lakes of the US is at its lowest level in decades, according to NOAA. Waters of the Great Lakes this fall were warmer than average, and the winter weather has also been warm so far. As a result, forecasters predict that winter storms over the northeast will suffer from more extreme lake-effect snowfalls since more moisture can be sucked up into the warmer lower atmosphere. The month ends with a massive winter storm dumping over two feet of snow across parts of New England, breaking one-day records for the most snowfall.
👍 President Biden’s Energy Department is proceeding with the creation of a Clean Energy Corps by hiring 1,000 workers in addition to career staff employees. The corps will support a number of initiatives including public policy, education, and renewable energy generation and transmission projects.
Drought and heat waves across the American west will require billions of dollars to make forests more wildfire resistant, resilient and fire-adaptive. Already the US spends nearly $2 billion each year on fire suppression, and that does not include the many millions lost due to damages from wildfires.
👍 ExxonMobil announced that it aims to reach net-zero from its operations by 2050. This is quite a change for the oil giant which for years denied climate change and financed the spread of disinformation. While it is good news that corporations are stepping up to address the climate crisis, this particular pledge does not include Scope 3 emissions which are those emissions from the use of Exxon’s products, dwarfing those of its own operations.
Conservative legislators in US states like Missouri are still in denial. Republican lawmakers there are proposing new legislation that would ban cities or counties from requiring charging stations be included in new or renovated buildings. It is estimated that by 2030 over 25% of vehicles in some US cities will be electric powered, so there is a long way to go to provide supporting infrastructure.
One of the things most may not yet understand is that to save the planet and future generations from harm they will have to eventually give up not only their gas-burning cars but also their gas stoves. About one-third or 40 million homes in the US use gas instead of electricity to cook with. Gas stoves and ovens are particularly bad due to their methane and nitrous oxide emissions.
Near the end of the month, President Xi Jinping of China said that he would not reduce emissions at the expense of other necessities that impact the normal life for the Chinese people.
In the first global meeting since the Glasgow COP26 conference, US Climate Envoy John Kerry warned that the world is not on track to meet agreed-upon goals which avoid the most dangerous results of climate change and we must all move faster. One of the most disturbing trends cited is that instead of using less coal, last year the world used nearly 10% more. And another 300 GW of coal-burning energy plants is under construction around the world at a time when we need to decommission over 800 GW of existing plants. We are going in the wrong direction.
Featured image is a from Berkeley Earth at http://berkeleyearth.org/global-temperature-report-for-2021/.