The 6 environmental news that you must follow throughout 2022

8 Min reading

Through John R. Platt and Tara Lohan.

Last year’s COP26 was hailed as a disappointment by many environmentalists. Today, in 2022, fighting for the planet is more important than ever. Staying on top of new developments and key figures will prove to be more critical than ever.

A new year brings new opportunities – and more of the same environmental threats of the previous 12 months.

But as we see year after year, many environmental issues tend to go unnoticed. Of course, climate change has started to gain wider coverage from some newspapers and TV networks, but many important stories are still being missed (or dismissed by partisan media). Meanwhile, the media devotes little space or airtime to stories about endangered species, environmental justice, pollution or sustainability.

Perhaps this is why these issues receive so little attention from lawmakers or the general public.

We can work to change that. Here are six of the most important but most likely to be overlooked environmental stories that The Revealer hopes to follow in 2022.

After the difficult elections last year, we proclaimed 2021 the start of “the years of reconstruction. “

This turned out to be somewhat true: Under President Biden, many anti-environmental initiatives and deregulation efforts of the previous administration fell like dominoes.

But in other respects, Biden has failed to deliver on campaign promises on environmental issues. More specifically, the approved administration new fossil fuel drilling rights at a breakneck pace in 2021, the opposite of the candidate’s promises (and even some of his early symbolic actions, like his executive order ordering the US government carbon neutral by 2050).

While the Beltway Press doesn’t dig this as often, all eyes should be on Biden’s next environmental measures. Can it respond to the real threats hanging over the planet? Or will this administration become another setback for the climate and biodiversity?

We believe it will be a combination of the two, with a few clear wins requiring amplification and a few partial or categorical failures.

The real proof in the political pudding will come in November, when the 2022 midterm elections could create long-term challenges for the planet. The increasingly authoritarian Republican Party is all he can to play both the 2022 and 2024 elections in its favor: removal of voters, redistribution, removal of bipartisan election officials and even adoption of legislation to allow it to reject election results that the GOP does not like not, while perpetuating the big damaging lie of election fraud to discredit the whole process.

The media, other lawmakers, activists and voters must ensure that this remains a key part of the stories we tell for years to come. Because if Trump or someone like him takes the presidency again in 2024, or if Republicans take control of the House in 2022, then that’s one more step towards extinction of the planet.

The past year has seen several comprehensive studies identifying the risk of extinction of large groups of species, and the news was not good. One third of shark species, according to studies, are threatened, just like 30% of trees, half of all turtles, 16% of dragonflies and damselflies, 30% of European birds and 16% of Australian birds.

And then, of course, there were the extinction.

Tragically, we don’t expect all of this to slow down in 2022. We’ve already heard from sources about potential extinction reports that could arise in the coming months, mostly for species that haven’t been seen since. several decades.

As usual, few of them are widely covered by the media. We’ll do our best to bring you this news, as well as conservation success stories that tend to get overlooked in our “if it bleeds, it leads” media environment.

The pandemic will also continue to affect the conservation movement, and we must keep these issues in public view. The past two years have seen much less field research around the world, although some scientists have started to overcome the need to stay home and go to the field.

Will the same happen with important international discussions? More than 190 countries are currently due to meet in April to discuss global agreements to protect nature and biodiversity. The arrival of the omicron variant – one more reminder that vaccines still have not been distributed fairly around the world – has now put this meeting, and possibly others like this, in danger.

But life finds a way. Even if you can’t work in nature or in person, there is always Zoom. The work that concluded that the risk of shark extinction would not have been possible without today’s online communication tools. These types of events don’t get as much media attention, but they will generate stories worth telling if we’re open to listening.

Will this be the year the United States finally hears the message about the dangers of plastic pollution?

Hopefully, because a new report report from the National Academy of Sciences, released in December, found the United States to be a major contributor to the problem. According to the report, U.S. residents generated more plastic waste in 2016 than any other country, at 42 million metric tons. That’s more than the whole of the European Union and double that of China.

The report, commissioned by Congress, recommends that the United States develop a comprehensive policy to reduce plastic waste in the environment. Of course, lawmakers could take the plunge if Congress passed the Free yourself from the plastic act presented last March.

And there is also another strategy: turn off the tap on plastic production by stopping the extraction of fossil fuels that provide raw materials for plastic and stopping the construction of huge new petrochemical facilities. The Army Corps of Engineers is currently in the midst of an environmental review of such a project – a $ 9 billion project. Formosa Plastics project in St. James Parish, Louisiana. This could pave the way for many future advancements.

Whatever happens, attention must remain on this problem, which not only plagues communities but exacerbates the climate crisis. It is time to show leadership, not just in this country, but around the world.

It shouldn’t be surprising anymore that we prepare for a wild adventure every year now, as climate change raises the temperature and fuels many storms and wildfires.

From 1980 to 2020, the United States experienced an average of about seven weather and climate events that each exceeded $ 1 billion. But from 2016-2020 that the average climbed to 16.

Researchers are increasingly able to show climate change fingerprints on specific weather events. A brief on the climate investigation in the field of “attribution of extreme events”, developed by scientists from Global weather attribution, showed that climate change made 70% of 405 extreme weather events more likely or more serious. The media need to make this connection more often.

So we know it happens. Now what are we going to do about it? Expect to see more stories about resilience to climate change and how states will spend the $ 50 billion earmarked for drought, heat and flood protection in the new infrastructure bill. . And hopefully we’ll see wide coverage of how this money gets to communities that need it most.

We will run – or at least jog – on the decarbonization race. Initial projections show that by 2022, the United States could see a record amount of new wind power (27 gigawatts) online, as well as twice as much large-scale solar power (44 gigawatts) compared to the last year, and six times more storage energy (8 gigawatts).

Meanwhile, 28% of U.S. coal-fired power plants are expected to close by 2035.

But don’t get too hung up on these projections for renewables. Rising costs and supply chain issues could slow down or stop certain planned projects. On the other hand, renewable energies could get a big boost if Congress is successful in passing the Build Back Better bill.

The rise of renewable energies will also come with a few other challenges that we need to keep an eye out for: Can raw materials like lithium and cobalt be obtained without endangering? human rights Where earthly and Marine ecosystems? Can projects be located and managed in a way that does not exacerbate biodiversity issues? Can we ensure that the poor communities and communities of color that have borne the brunt of the fossil fuel economy are the first beneficiaries of the energy transition and leaders in the process? These are the types of tough questions everyone should start asking themselves as we make this vitally important transition.

Even in the midst of the pandemic, dedicated environmental activists have refused to let their voices be silent.

We have seen a dramatic increase in direct actions in recent months, with climate protesters temporarily disrupt Australia’s largest coal port by scaling and then hanging from massive machines, going on a 14 day very public hunger strike, defend a sacred waterway in British Columbia, protest for the right to vote And much more.

And they’re just warming up. The climate protest group Extinction Rebellion has pledged a return to direct action now that vaccination rates have increased – in fact, they have been enough active the last few weeks.

The protests and disruption reflect society’s anger at corporate and government resistance to reform. They present the world with dramatic images and powerful messages, many of which are otherwise overlooked by the media and legislatures. These events may not add much individually, but collectively, over time, they work.

This is also why such activism is so risky. Chilean activist from last month Javiera Rojas was murdered, the latest in a growing series of deaths and other violent attacks against conservationists around the world.

These are the stories we all need to watch – and the messages we should never forget.

This story originally appeared in The Revealer and is republished here as part of Cover the climate now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of climate history.

All images are courtesy of Unsplash.

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