A Climate Review Of 2022

It’s that time of year where we look back over the last 365 days to see how far we have come…or not. Based on the Guardian’s Environmental review of 2022, we’ve created a simple, pretty bleak, and definitely not exhaustive, climate review of the past year.

Symptoms of the global climate crisis

  • Deadly floods submerged a third of Pakistan, affecting 33 million people. Flooding also affected Nigeria, Australia, Thailand and Vietnam, and Venezuela
  • Dangerous heatwaves engulfed parts of India, China, Europe, and North America. The American West struggled with the most extreme megadrought in at least 1,200 years
  • Temperatures rose to above 40C this summer for the first time in the UK since records began
  • In the US, Hurricane Ian became the most deadly hurricane since Katrina in 2005
  • In Australia, hot seas led to the Great Barrier Reef suffering its fourth mass bleaching in just seven years

In fossil fuel news…

  • Scores of “carbon bomb” oil and gas projects, many in the fracking fields of the US, the world’s largest oil producer, are being planned by the world’s biggest fossil fuel firms
  • Energy prices soared due to Russia’s war in Ukraine….meanwhile Shell has paid zero windfall tax in the UK despite making record global profits of nearly $30bn (£26bn) this year
  • Global coal burning will hit an all-time high in 2022, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA)
  • The UK government approved 130 new oil and gas licences and its first new coal mine for 30 years
  • Britain has brought three coal-fired power stations out of retirement to act as a back up for the National Grid electricity generation

And then there’s pollution…

  • Pollution is the third major environmental crisis
  • The release of 350,000 synthetic chemicals including plastics, pesticides, industrial compounds and antibiotics, meant chemical pollution has crossed a “planetary boundary”, concluded scientists in January
  • Toxic air, water and soil are already killing 9 million people a year, making pollution responsible for one in six of all deaths
  • Microplastics were found in human blood for the first time in 2022, showing the particles can travel around the body and may lodge in organs
  • The problem of sewage pollution was particularly high profile in England, with water companies revealed to have discharged raw sewage into rivers 372,533 times in a year

Political decisions with huge consequences

  • The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 was introduced by the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice in April 2022 to crack down on the right to legal protest. This controversial law received fierce criticism with Kill the Bill protests, due to its impact on freedom of speech and the right to protest in the UK
  • There are currently 14 climate activists on remand in prison awaiting trial in the UK and throughout the year, hundreds of arrests have been made and over 50 people have spent time in prison for taking part in nonviolent climate protests
  • After two weeks of increasingly fractious and messy talks, the Cop27 UN climate summit in Egypt in November ended in “disappointment” for those hoping for progress on the global goal of limiting temperature rises to 1.5C
  • Political turmoil in the UK delayed action on energy efficiency and the UK government opposed solar farms, undermining its international reputation on climate
  • No world leaders attended the Cop15 event for biodiversity in Montreal. The historic agreement that was reached included targets to protect 30% of land and oceans for nature by 2030, reform $500bn of environmentally damaging subsidies, tackle species extinctions, increase funding and, crucially, to promote and protect rights of Indigenous peoples (it remains to be seen what action will be taken – none of the agreements made at the previous conference were adhered to)

Signs of Hope

  • The re-election of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as the president of Brazil. Experts had said the fate of the Amazon rested on the vote
  • At COP27, there were at least signs of a much-needed pact between the developed and developing world in an agreement to set up a fund for loss and damage
  • In the US, President Joe Biden passed the biggest climate bill in the country’s history, channelling $369bn in support to renewable energy, electric cars and heating, and energy efficiency
  • In Australia, a new Labor government increased the nation’s climate target from a 26% reduction in emissions by 2030 to 43%
  • Russia’s war in Ukraine sparked an efficiency drive in Europe and “turbocharged” renewable energy growth, according to the IEA

Quotes from 2022

  • A UN study in October stated there was “no credible pathway in place to 1.5C”, the internationally agreed limit for global heating, and that progress on cutting carbon emissions was “woefully inadequate”
  • “We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator,” UN secretary general, António Guterres
  • “This dystopia is on our doorstep; it’s going to be next in their country [in the global north]. If you’re not understanding that it’s right here, right now, then you’re really sleepwalking into annihilation.” Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s climate minister
  • “My main reason for not relaxing into contented retirement is that, like most of you, I am deeply concerned about the probability of massively harmful climate change and the need to do something about it now.” British scientist James Lovelock also died in 2022, at the age of 103
  • “We have the potential for a world where everyone can lead a prosperous life without bursting through planetary boundaries, a world where we can feed the planet without devouring it.”  George Monbiot

There’s been much, much more. We know that. If you want more, you can read the Guardian’s Environmental review of 2022 in full here. The Guardian’s strapline for its article is “another mile on the ‘highway to climate hell’” – as we said, it’s “pretty bleak”. Please do not despair. We can come together to make a difference. Do get in touch if you want to find out how you can get involved.