6 climate wins from 2022 that are worth celebrating
- It's been a banner year for extreme weather, but we made some big strides to tackle climate change.
- Sweeping climate legislation passed, climate candidates won, and animals got important protections.
It's been a year of record-breaking heat, floods, and other natural disasters. Severe droughts gripped parts of the globe The latest report from the United Nations climate panel provided a grim prognosis for our planet if ambitious climate goals aren't met.
But through it all, there was encouraging progress on climate that's worth celebrating.
Insider asked environmental experts for a year-end review of crucial victories. Here are six developments they say should give us hope in the coming new year.
The US passed the most sweeping climate bill ever enacted in the nation
In August, President Joe Biden signed the wide-ranging Inflation Reduction Act into law. Nearly $369 billion allocated in the new law will go toward clean energy tax credits.
"This year feels like a breakthrough. After more than thirty years of effort, the U.S. finally passed comprehensive climate legislation," Leah Stokes, a political science professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, told Insider via email. "All told, there are hundreds of billions of dollars available for climate progress."
An analysis from Princeton University researchers estimates the bill's climate provisions will reduce the country's greenhouse gas emissions by 42% below 2005 levels by the end of the decade.
Climate candidates won in races with stakes for the environment
This year, there were high-stakes elections that could shape the future of our planet. "Globally, climate candidates won in Australia and Brazil," Stokes said.
In Brazil, two-time former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva defeated far-right president Jair Bolsonaro. During Bolsonaro's time in office, Brazil cleared large swaths of the Amazon rainforest for farmland, accelerating deforestation there. Overall, deforestation rose more than 50% during his presidency, according to the Brazilian Ministry of Science.
Conversely, during Lula's previous years in office, Amazon deforestation fell by more than 80%. The newly elected president promises to fight deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.
In Australia, the country's new prime minister, Anthony Albanese, promised to herald a new era in climate action with tougher emission reduction goals.
"Together we can end the climate wars," he said in his victory speech, Reuters reported. "Together we can take advantage of the opportunity for Australia to be a renewable energy superpower."
Global climate negotiations focused on the world's oceans
This year's COP27, a UN conference on climate change, was held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.
Peter B. de Menocal, president of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, told Insider that the event featured the first-ever Ocean Pavilion.
It "was a win for the ocean and an acknowledgement of the critical role it plays in our global climate," de Menocal said.
The ocean takes up 90% of excell heat and absorbs about 30% of the carbon dioxide we emit into the atmosphere, according to NOAA.
"The presence of the Ocean Pavilion helped elevate awareness of the potential opportunities for the ocean to play a central role in one day removing more planet-warming carbon from the atmosphere than human activity puts there each year," he added.
Emperor penguins got protections under the Endangered Species Act
There are as many as 650,000 emperor penguins in Antarctica, according to the US Fish & Wildlife Service.
That population could shrink by 26% to 47% by 2050 due to "low and high carbon emissions scenarios, respectively," the agency said.
In October, the flightless seabird received protection under the Endangered Species Act — a law enacted in 1973 to protect vulnerable wildlife.
"It was a much needed win for the species," de Menocal said, adding that the climate crisis could make emperor penguins virtually extinct by 2100. The listing provides tools to designate and protect their dwindling habitat.
"It also promotes international cooperation on conservation strategies, increases funding for conservation programs, spurs research, and provides concrete tools for threat reductions, all critical steps to save this iconic bird," he added.
A year of more efforts to fight against plastic pollution
Humans currently go through an estimated 330 million tons of plastic a year, but only 9% of global plastic waste is recycled, according to the UN.
This year, the Los Angeles city council adopted a law to make single-use food-ware available only by request for takeout and delivery.
"When you order takeout food, you are not automatically given plastic utensils, straws, or condiments," Judith Enck, founder and president of Beyond Plastics, an environmental organization working to tackle plastic pollution, told Insider. "This not only reduces waste but also saves restaurants money."
Similar legislation is already making its way across the US, in places like Denver, Colorado and New York City.
An indigenous patrol in the Amazon won a 'Green Nobel'
The Cofán community along the banks of the Aguarico River in Ecuador's Amazon rainforest established an indigenous patrol, known as La Guardia, in 2017, to push back against miners' growing encroachment on their ancestral lands.
They wrote their own law, permitting patrol members to confiscate equipment and call in Ecuador's environmental police if they find trespassers in the area.
The patrol's work, and subsequent legal success, earned Alex Lucitante and Alexandra Narvaez a 2022 Goldman Environmental Prize for grassroots environmental activism, known as the "Green Nobel."
"I want to invite other Indigenous communities in Ecuador and the world to join these collective fights happening in Amazonia," Lucitante previously told Insider. "We're dreaming of a world where our communities — with their knowledge and culture — can keep living."
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