A Dozen Things That Helped and Hurt Climate Progress in 2021
2021 may turn out to be the most critical year in our efforts to combat climate change. After four years of inaction and backpedaling by the Trump administration, the U.S. under President Biden is attempting to make up for lost time. A lot has happened here and around the worldsome of it good, some of it not so good. As the year draws to a close, lets take a look at where we stand.
Just hours after his inauguration, President Biden rejoined the 2015 Paris climate agreement from which former President Trump had withdrawn.In November, Biden attended the Glasgow climate talks, also known as COP26, to further the efforts of the Paris agreement. The meeting resulted in the Glasgow Climate Pact, an agreement endorsed by almost 200 countries. While the nations commitments were not ambitious enough to meet the aspirational goal of the Paris accordto keep global warming to 1.5C136 countries pledged to reach net zero in the next few decades. One hundred and fifty-three countries enhanced their nationally determined contributionstheir nonbinding climate action plansand they are expected to return next year, instead of waiting another five years, with even more ambitious action plans.
Over 100 world leaders pledged to end deforestation by 2030, including Canada, Russia, China, Indonesia, Brazil, and the U.S. Over 100 countries also signed the Global Methane Pledge, committing to cut methane emissions 30 percent from 2020 levels by 2030. For the first time, climate negotiators called for the phasing out of fossil fuels, and set forth rules to establish international carbon markets. And in a surprise announcement, the U.S. and China agreed to work together to try to limit global warming to 1.5C by cooperating on regulations and environmental standards, policies to promote decarbonization, green design, and the implementation of new technologies.
Jason Bordoff, co-founding dean of the Columbia Climate School and founding director of the Center on Global Energy Policy, said, This was a notable year for climate progress because the U.S. is back in a leadership role, with President Biden reversing many of the actions taken by his predecessor, including rejoining the Paris Agreement.And there has been a notable shift in the way both policy makers and the public talk about climate change and the need to address it. I am heartened to see that the way we discuss climate action now matches the urgency of the challenge we face. Before the Paris Agreement, the world was on track for warming levels of 3.5 to 4 degrees Celsius. After Glasgow, we are on track for somewhere around 2.5 to 3 degrees. Thats far short of where we need to be, but it shows progress is possible.
President Bidens $1 trillion infrastructure bill, which he signed into law in November, provides billions of dollars to combat climate change. To enable more use of renewable energy, $73 billion will go towards upgrading the electrical grid. Forty-seven billion dollars will be directed to climate resiliency to help coastal communities deal with more hurricanes and flooding, and help other areas combat increasing wildfires.
To speed the decarbonization of transportation, 500,000 new charging stations will be built for electric vehicles.
Bidens Build Back Better bill, if it gets passed, would be the largest effort in American history to deal with climate change. It would offer rebates and tax credits to motivate consumers to transition to clean energy and electrification, and provide incentives to expand solar and wind power. It would also invest in natural climate solutions such as forest management and soil conservation, establish a Civilian Climate Corps to conserve public lands, and provide grants to environmental justice communities. Now stymied by Senator Joe Manchin, the Build Back Better bill will need to be renegotiated to have a chance of passage.
President Biden withdrew the permit his predecessor had given the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. Commissioned in 2010, the pipeline was designed to transport 900,000 barrels of dirty tar sands oil each day from Alberta to refineries in Illinois and along the Texas Gulf coast. Tar sands mining and production result in three to four times as much greenhouse gas pollution as conventional oil production. After 10 years of Indigenous-led protests, TC Energy finally cancelled its plans for the huge crude oil pipeline.
NASA announced plans for a new fleet of Earth-observing satellites. The Earth System Observatory will monitor clouds and aerosols, and give scientists new insights into the planets temperatures and chemistry. The data the satellites gather should improve severe weather forecasts, assess water levels and droughts to enable better planning of water use and disaster response, and allow researchers to study how climate change affects food, agriculture, water, and energy use. The findings will be free to researchers around the world. After former President Trumps attempts to cancel NASAs earth science missions, with this new fleet of satellites, NASA is once again integral to shaping the countrys climate policy.
According to a recent Lancet study, almost 60 percent of young people under 25 said that they were extremely concerned about climate change. This year, thousands of young people in over 1,500 locations around the world took to the streets before COP26 to compel leaders to forcefully tackle climate change. And in Glasgow, tens of thousands, many of them young people inspired by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, marched for systemic change.
In the end, Thunberg deemed COP26 a failure because leaders had not taken drastic enough action to end fossil fuel use, but her fight continues. She tweeted to her five million Twitter followers, The real work continues outside these halls. And we will never give up, ever.
The Columbia Climate Schoolwelcomed its inaugural class in 2021. The first new school to be established at the university in 25 years, the Climate Schools goal is to marshal Columbia Universitys academic resources to meet the challenges of climate change. The 12-month interdisciplinary Master of Arts in Climate and Society program it offers trains professionals and academics to understand and deal with the impacts of climate change on society and the planet.
A school like no other, the Columbia Climate School aims to ensure that the latest research in climate and sustainable development has a real-world and real-time impact on all lives, especially those that are affected most by the climate crisis.
At COP26, countries were supposed to have reviewed their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and ratcheted them up to be more ambitious as per the Paris agreement. While many countries did comply, some major countriesresubmitted the same targets they had in 2015 (Australia, Indonesia, Russia, Singapore, Switzerland, Thailand, Vietnam); some submitted even weaker targets (Brazil, Mexico); and Turkey and Kazakhstan didnt submit new NDCs at all.
Climate financing fell short as well. Because the developing countries of the world have contributed least to global warming yet stand to suffer the most from climate change impacts, in 2009, wealthy countries pledged to provide $100 billion a year by 2020 to help them transition to clean energy and build resilience to climate change impacts. According to the OECD, in 2019, almost $80 billion was raised, but the $100 billion goal will likely not be reached until 2023. Although countries promised millions in new pledges at COP26, many were skeptical because the original commitments havent been met. Rich countries are resisting attempts to get them to pay for damage inflicted on more vulnerable countries by climate change. Biden promised to raise the U.S. contribution to $11.4 billion a year by 2024, but according to global think tank ODI, the U.S.s fair share should be more like $30 to 47 billion a year.
The Global Carbon Project found that emissions from coal and gas increased in 2021, with fossil fuel emissions rising between 1.4 to 5.7 percent globally after a 5.4 percent decrease during 2020 due to the pandemic. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere broke another record this year, peaking at 419ppm according to NOAAs Mauna Loa Observatory. This is the highest level recorded since precise measurements began 63 years ago. The level of CO2 in the atmosphere today is about what it was between 4.1 and 4.5 million years ago when sea levels were 78 feet higher than they are today.
2021 was a year of devastating extreme weather. In the U.S., there were record-breaking heatwaves in the Pacific Northwest, flash floods in the Northeast, damaging hurricanes in the Atlantic and Caribbean Oceans and the Gulf of Mexico, and historic drought and raging wildfires in the Southwest. Many other countries around the world were hit with heavy precipitation and flooding too.
Extreme heat waves hit Japan, Ireland, Turkey, and England, and many parts of the Mediterranean experienced record high temperatures and drought. Wildfires produced 1.76 billion metric tons of carbon emissions globally, with fires in Siberia, Turkey, and the U.S., wildfires breaking records for the amount of carbon they emitted. Global mean sea levels reached new highs in 2021: The latest measurement was approximately 100mmup from its previous record high in 2020 of 91.3mm above 1993 levels.
Deforestation in Brazils Amazon rainforest increased 22 percent, reaching its highest level since 2006. From August 2020 to July 2021, more than 5,100 square miles of forest were razed, an area almost 17 times the size of New York City. Although Brazils President Bolsonaro has claimed his government is slowing deforestation, he has encouraged development of the Amazon for mining and large scale farming, and failed to enact laws to prevent deforestation.
Despite President Bidens campaign pledge to end new fossil fuel drilling on public land, he has approved more permits to drill for oil or gas on public lands than Trump did in any of the first three years of his presidency. So far, the Bureau of Land Management has approved 333 drilling permits each month, with a peak of 652 in April. Moreover, it is planning to hold more leasing auctions in the first quarter of 2022. In November, oil and gas companies won rights to drill offshore across over 1.7 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico in the largest offshore lease sale in U.S. history. That sale has the potential to emit 723 million metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere over its lifetime, equivalent to operating more than 70 percent of the United States coal-fired power plants for a year, according to the Center for American Progress.
After the Biden administration paused all new leasing last year, it claimed that the courts had required it to hold the auction, but later acknowledged that it actually had not been forced to. And even as Biden called on every nation to reduce emissions at COP26, he was urging energy-producing countries to ramp up production to expand the oil supply due to high energy prices.
The prices of oil, natural gas, diesel and coal surged more than 80 percent in 2021 because the demand for energy rebounded after the pandemic faster than production could handle. Natural gas and coal prices reached record highs and a global gas shortage led to more demand for coal.
Gas shortages resulted in lines at gas stations. Photo: CWMc
As a result, global coal generation is expected to rise 9 percent this year. The Energy Information Administration predicted that U.S. home heating oil bills would be 39 percent higher than last year, natural gas would be 26 percent higher, and electricity 6 percent higher. Households could end up paying from 22 to 94 percent more to heat their homes this winter. While this would be a logical time to redouble efforts to transition to clean energy, soaring energy prices may in fact hinder the movement towards renewables.
Public support for decarbonization is at an all-time high, Bordoff said. But if forced to choose between emissions and expenses, many consumers will prioritize the latter, and who can blame them?Moving to a clean energy system may actually reduce energy costs, but there is every possibility that the road will be bumpy and we should expect more energy price volatility in the future. It is my hope that we will be able to sustain support for climate action even amidst a turbulent transition.
When asked whether he was ultimately more or less optimistic about climate change after what has occurred this year, Bordoff replied, Overall, Im trying to stay optimistic, but 2021 was a tough year. Devastating floods in the U.S., China, and Germany and other destructive weather events have shown us the deadly results of a warming planet. And after a brief reduction, emissions again are on the rise and will be even higher than pre-COVID levels. But its the publics concernespecially among young peopleover the climate crisis that gives me hope that we can finally make some of these difficult policy decisions that didnt garner a lot of support in the past. The big question is whether we can take action in time because time is running out to act. Were not yet on the path to solve the problem, but were heading in the right direction.
Read more here:
- Harvard police chief recalls his first year of pandemic, progress - Harvard Gazette - May 20th, 2022
- Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Managers Report Progress, Brace for Return of Winds - Santa Fe Reporter - May 20th, 2022
- Community progress in Maryvale based on coming together, hearing people, says former ASU program head - ASU News Now - May 20th, 2022
- Opinion | American Progress Is No Longer a Sure Thing - The New York Times - May 20th, 2022
- Karl Dorrell pleased with CU Buffs offseason progress - Greeley Tribune - May 20th, 2022
- Apple shows AR/VR headset to its board in sign of progress on project - AdAge.com - May 20th, 2022
- MoDOT gives behind the scenes of progress on Rocheport bridge - ABC17News.com - May 20th, 2022
- Firefighters make progress on control lines ahead of the Bear Trap Fire - nmfireinfo.com - May 20th, 2022
- Community development plan: Fort Hood Family Housing building a bridge to progress - United States Army - May 20th, 2022
- Hard Work and Progress Pave Hawks' Road to State - KCII Radio - May 20th, 2022
- Bernd Rodler: Real Innovation And Progress Happen Beyond Big Tech (Part II) Interview - Eurasia Review - May 20th, 2022
- Bristol Myers Squibb Data at ASCO and EHA 2022 Highlight Progress in Transforming Treatment for Patients with Cancer and Blood Disorders - Business... - May 20th, 2022
- Work in Progress: May 19, 2022 The Sopris Sun - soprissun.com - May 20th, 2022
- Viola Davis Reveals a Director Called Her by His Maids Name, Speaks Out on Hollywoods Slow Race Progress (EXCLUSIVE) - Variety - May 20th, 2022
- USDOT: Nation seeing signs of progress in supply chain as historic level of goods flow in - TheTrucker.com - The Trucker - May 20th, 2022
- Top CTV Buyers 'frustrated' By Slow Progress Of Ad Measurement Projects - The Drum - May 20th, 2022
- Fire crews stop forward progress of Evita Fire, evacuation warning downgraded - Action News Now - May 20th, 2022
- Third Round Bound Progress Times - Progresstimes - May 20th, 2022
- Elon Musk: Twitter deal cannot progress without proof on bot numbers - The Guardian - May 17th, 2022
- Accelerate sustainability progress and business growth with Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability starting June 1 - The Official Microsoft Blog -... - May 17th, 2022
- Report finds little progress reducing violence against Native American women - MPR News - May 17th, 2022
- During Infrastructure Week, Mayor Bowser Highlights Progress in Expanding Access to Solar Projects Through DC Green Bank | mayormb - Executive Office... - May 17th, 2022
- Review highlights progress of the Greenfield school year - The Highland County Press - May 17th, 2022
- Karl Dorrell pleased with CU Buffs offseason progress - BuffZone - May 17th, 2022
- How Should Cybersecurity Leaders Report on Their Progress? - BizTech Magazine - May 17th, 2022
- With Inflation, California Worries About Progress On Poverty - LAist - May 17th, 2022
- Palmhurst to hold special mayoral election Progress Times - Progresstimes - May 17th, 2022
- As It Were: Mounds didn't stand in way of Columbus' progress - The Columbus Dispatch - May 17th, 2022
- Major progress made, alternatives offered to help ease baby formula shortage - KITV Honolulu - May 17th, 2022
- Progress Releases MOVEit 2022 with Advanced Capabilities to Secure and Simplify File Transfer Across Systems | Progress Software Corporation -... - May 17th, 2022
- Calling for rapid progress on the formation of a stable government in Iraq: UK Statement at the UN Security Council - GOV.UK - May 17th, 2022
- Mayor declares it Affordable Housing Week to celebrate progress made and stress need for additional investment - LouisvilleKy.gov - May 17th, 2022
- Employee trust4 ways to maintain progress made during the pandemic - AdAge.com - May 17th, 2022
- UN advisor on Libya pleased with encouraging progress in talks between HoR and HSC - Egypt Today - May 17th, 2022
- The lunar eclipse in progress - KETV Omaha - May 17th, 2022
- Assault victim taken to the hospital with CPR in progress - KETV Omaha - May 17th, 2022
- More progress in fight to contain northern Michigan wildfire - Detroit News - May 17th, 2022
- UPDATE: Crews make progress on High Park Fire over the weekend - FOX21News.com - May 17th, 2022
- Firefighters stop forward progress of wind-driven fire near Porter Ranch - KTLA Los Angeles - May 15th, 2022
- The Messy Progress on Data Privacy - The New York Times - May 15th, 2022
- Work in Progress: Alma baseball off to 8-8 start - The Morning Sun - May 15th, 2022
- Storm chances remain high as we progress through the weekend - FOX 59 Indianapolis - May 15th, 2022
- Cash, coal, cars and trees: what progress has been made since Cop26? - The Guardian - May 15th, 2022
- Progress to Participate in the 17th Annual Needham Technology & Media Conference - GlobeNewswire - May 15th, 2022
- New report shows progress and missed opportunities in the control of NCDs at the national level - World Health Organization - May 15th, 2022
- Biden: Progress on baby formula supply coming very shortly - The Hill - May 15th, 2022
- Springbank homeowner comes across break-and-enter in progress: RCMP - Airdrie Today - May 15th, 2022
- Tompkins confident in progress of $50 million street program - Herald-Banner - May 15th, 2022
- 2022 Projects for Progress awardees continue working with community | Penn Today - Penn Today - May 15th, 2022
- Otter Tail Power Company Making Great Progress Many in Castlewood Will Have Power Soon - mykxlg.com - May 15th, 2022
- UAE saw surge in progress in these six areas during Sheikh Khalifa's years in office - The National - May 15th, 2022
- 3 Questions: Daniel Anderson on the progress of mRNA vaccines - MIT News - May 13th, 2022
- Construction Progress on the New Crystal Police Station - CCX Media - ccxmedia.org - May 13th, 2022
- Progress Releases MOVEit 2022 with Advanced Capabilities to Secure and Simplify File Transfer Across Systems - GlobeNewswire - May 13th, 2022
- MIT Climate Plug-In highlights first year of progress on MIT's climate plan - MIT News - May 13th, 2022
- Mayor Dyer discusses progress and upcoming projects at State of the City - YourCentralValley.com - May 13th, 2022
- Michigan Recycling Coalition EGLE celebrate progress state has made over 40 years - Michigan (.gov) - May 13th, 2022
- Intel 2021 diversity and inclusion report shows small progress amid pandemic - VentureBeat - May 13th, 2022
- Readout of Meeting with Partnership for Central America to Drive Progress on Vice President Harris's Call to Action - The White House - May 13th, 2022
- Surescripts webinar highlights: Interoperability progress depends on how you look at it - MedCity News - May 13th, 2022
- Caterpillar 2021 Diversity & Inclusion Report Highlights Progress with Growth in Diverse Populations - Yahoo Finance - May 13th, 2022
- Target's Progress on Investing $2 Billion in Black-owned Businesses - Target Corporate - May 13th, 2022
- Evil Dead The Game review in progress hail to the king, baby - The Loadout - May 13th, 2022
- PAYCORE MINERALS DRILLING PROGRESS AND COMPANY TO PARTICIPATE IN CANACCORD GLOBAL METALS & MINING CONFERENCE - Yahoo Finance - May 13th, 2022
- Pirates advance as seniors shine - The Progress - mvprogress - May 13th, 2022
- Riley Herbst showing progress with Stewart-Haas: Momentum is everything - NASCAR - May 13th, 2022
- New Images Reveal Construction Progress of ODA's POST Rotterdam - ArchDaily - May 13th, 2022
- Decades of progress and promises squandered as rights begin to disappear - Reno Gazette Journal - May 13th, 2022
- Nissan demonstrates strong progress with Nissan NEXT transformation plan - Automotive World - May 13th, 2022
- Wireless LAN Development Progress Analysis Report 2022: Analyze Recently Introduced or Still in Development Advanced Wi-Fi Technologies -... - May 13th, 2022
- Westfield Sees Progress on Several Fronts - Business West - May 13th, 2022
- LUNA, UST re-listed on Binance there is progress - CryptoSlate - May 13th, 2022
- A Great Sign of Progress - The Wave - The Wave, Rockaway's Newspaper Since 1893 - May 13th, 2022
- Russia's Progress in Donbas Means Ukraine Likely Won't Win the War - 19FortyFive - May 13th, 2022
- Swinney gives post-spring injury progress report - The Clemson Insider - May 13th, 2022
- Revenge Of The Mummy's Refurbishment Has Made Some Progress, But There's Still No Update On Brendan Fraser's Fate In The Attraction - CinemaBlend - May 3rd, 2022
- Corn and soybean planting progress still behind five-year averages - Successful Farming - May 3rd, 2022
- Want to Get Involved in Burbank's Decision Making Progress? - MyBurbank.com - May 3rd, 2022
- Wolves realize progress from 1st-round exit not a given - NBA.com - May 3rd, 2022
- Novak Djokovic Hopeful Of Further Progress In Madrid - ATP Tour - May 3rd, 2022