2021 could be the most crucial year in our efforts against climate change. The U.S. is trying to make up for four years of backpedaling and inaction by the Trump administration. A lot has happened here and around the world—some of it good, some of it not so good. Let’s look at where the year is going as it draws to a close.
What made climate change possible?
Just hours after his inauguration was over, President Biden returned to the 2015 Paris. ClimateTrump had withdrawn from an agreement. To further the Paris Agreement’s efforts, Biden attended the Glasgow Climate Talks, also known as COP26. The Glasgow Climate Pact was adopted by nearly 200 countries. While the nations’ commitments were not ambitious enough to meet the aspirational goal of the Paris accord—to keep Global warming to 1.5°C—136 countries pledged to reach net zeroOver the next few decades. One hundred and fifty-three countries enhanced their nationally determined contributions—their nonbinding climate action plans—and they are expected to return next year, instead of waiting another five years, with even more ambitious action plans.
Over 100 world leaders have pledged to end deforestation before 2030, including Canada and the U.S., Russia, China and Indonesia. More than 100 countries have also signed the Global Methane Pledge, which commits to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. methane emissionsBy 2030, it will be 30 percent below 2020 levels. Climate negotiators made the first call for the elimination of fossil fuels and created 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 1.5°C by cooperating on regulations and environmental standards, policies to promote decarbonization, green design, and the implementation of new technologies.
Jason Bordoff, cofounding dean at Columbia Climate School, and founding director of Center on Global Energy Policy, stated that “This year was a landmark year for climate progress because America is back in leadership role, with President Biden reversed many of his predecessor’s actions, including joining the Paris Agreement. A notable shift has occurred in the way policymakers and the public talk about climate and the need to address this issue. It is encouraging to see that climate action is being discussed in a way that is appropriate for the urgency of the problem we face. The world was on track to experience a warming rate of 3.5-4 degrees Celsius before the Paris Agreement. We are currently on track for a temperature increase of 2.5 to 3.0 degrees after Glasgow. This is a far cry from where we need it to be, but it shows that we are making progress.
2. Biden’s infrastructure bills and Build Back Better bills
President Biden’s $1 Trillion infrastructure bill, which was signed into law by him in November, provides billions to combat climate change. $73 billion will be used to upgrade the electrical grid in order to increase renewable energy use. Climate resilience will receive 47 billion dollars to help coastal communities cope with more flooding and hurricanes, as well as help other areas fight increasing wildfires.
To accelerate the decarbonization and modernization of transportation, 500,000 additional charging stations will soon be built for electric cars.
If it is passed, Biden’s BuildBack Better bill will be the largest American effort to address climate change. It would provide tax credits and rebates to encourage consumers to switch to clean energy and electrification. It also provides incentives to increase solar and wind power. It would also provide grants for environmental justice communities and invest in natural climate solutions, such as soil conservation and forest management. The Build Back Better bill is currently being blocked by Senator Joe Manchin. To have any chance of passage, it will need to be renegotiated.
3. Keystone XL pipeline halted
President Biden revoked the permit that his predecessor had granted for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. The pipeline was built to transport 900,000.000 barrels of dirty oil tar sands oil daily from Alberta to refineries in Illinois along the Texas Gulf coast. Tar sands production and mining cause three to four times the greenhouse gas pollution of conventional oil production. After 10 years’ of Indigenous-led protests TC Energy has finally canceled its plans to build a huge crude oil pipeline.
4. NASA satellites
NASA has announced plans to launch a new set of Earth-observing satellites. The Earth System Observatory will monitor clouds, aerosols, and provide scientists with new insights into the planet’s temperature and chemistry. The satellite data will help improve severe weather forecasts, assess water level and droughts, which will allow for better planning of water use, disaster response, as well as allowing researchers to study how climate change impacts food, agriculture, and energy use. Researchers around the globe will have access to the findings at no cost. NASA is integral to the shaping of the country’s climate policy after former President Trump tried to cancel NASA’s earth science missions.
5. Youth activism
A recent survey by a LancetAccording to a study, nearly 60% of young people aged 25 and under said they were very concerned about climate change. Thousands of young people marched in the streets to demand that leaders address climate change. Tens of thousands marched for systemic changes in Glasgow, many of whom were inspired by Greta Thunberg, a Swedish climate activist.
Thunberg deemed COP26 a defeat because leaders failed to take enough action to reduce fossil fuel use. However, her fight for change continues. To her five million followers on Twitter, she tweeted: “The real work is still being done outside these halls.” We will never give up, never.”
6. Columbia Climate School launched
In 2021, the Columbia Climate School welcomed its first class. The Climate School, Columbia University’s first new school in 25 years is designed to harness Columbia University’s academic resources to address climate change. It offers a 12-month, interdisciplinable Master of Arts in Climate and Society that trains academics and professionals to understand and deal the effects of climate change on society and the environment.
Columbia Climate School is an exceptional school. Its mission is to ensure that the most current research in climate change and sustainable development has a real and immediate impact on all people, especially those most affected by the crisis.
Climate change: What is stopping it?
1. COP26 fell short
During COP26, countries were required to review their national determined contributions (NDCs), and ratify them to be more ambitious in accordance with the Paris agreement. Although many countries did comply with the Paris agreement, some major countries submitted their 2015 targets again (Australia, Indonesia and Russia, Singapore, Switzerland and Thailand, Vietnam), while others submitted weaker targets (Brazil, Mexico), and Turkey and Kazakhstan did not submit new NDCs.
Climate financing was also lacking. The poorest countries in the world contribute the least to global warming, yet are most likely to be affected by climate change. In 2009, wealthy countries pledged $100 billion per year to support them in their transition to clean energy and climate resilience. The OECD estimates that nearly $80 billion was raised in 2019, but that the $100 billion goal won’t be met until 2023. Many people were skeptical of countries’ promises to make millions in new pledges at COP26. However, many are skeptical that the original commitments will be fulfilled. Rich countries resist attempts to get them responsible for the damage done to more vulnerable countries by climate changes. Biden promised to increase the U.S. contribution by $11.4 billion a Year by 2024. However, according to global think tank ODI the U.S. should pay more than $30 to 47 billion a Year.
2. CO2The atmosphere broke records
The Global Carbon Project discovered that global carbon dioxide emissions rose in 2021. After a 5.4 percent drop in 2020 due to the pandemic, fossil fuel emissions increased between 1.4 and 5.7 percent. Another record was broken this year by carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Peaking at 419ppmAccording to NOAA’s Mauna Loa Observatory. This is the highest level ever recorded since exact measurements began 63 year ago. The CO level2The atmosphere of today is roughly the same as it was between 4.1 million and 4.5million years ago when sea level were 78 feet higher than they currently are.
3. Climate impacts have gotten worse
2021 was a year marked by extreme weather. The U.S. experienced record-breaking heatwaves throughout the Pacific Northwest and flash floods in Northeast. There were also damaging hurricanes in Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico Oceans. In addition to drought and wildfires in Southwest, the year saw historic drought. Other countries were also affected by heavy precipitation and flooding.
Extreme heat wave hit Japan, Ireland Turkey, England, and Turkey. Many areas of the Mediterranean saw record high temperatures and drought. Global wildfires produced 1.76 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. Fires in Siberia and Turkey set new records for the amount of carbon they released. The global mean sea level rose to new heights in 2021. 100mmIt has risen from its previous record of 91.3mm above 1993 levels in 2020 to reach its current record high of 91.3mm.
4. Amazon has seen an increase in deforestation
The Amazon rainforest in Brazil saw 22 percent more deforestation, its highest level since 2006. Between August 2020 and July 2021, 5,100 square miles of Amazon rainforest were destroyed. This is almost 17 times the area of New York City. Bolsonaro, the Brazilian President, claims that his government slows deforestation. However, he has encouraged the Amazon’s mining and large-scale farming and failed to pass laws to stop it.
5. Biden approved fossil fuel extraction on public lands
Despite President Biden’s campaign pledge to stop new fossil fuel drilling in public land, he has issued more permits for oil and gas drilling on public lands than Trump during his first three years of presidency. The Bureau of Land Management has approved 333 drilling permit per month so far, with a peak of 652 for April. It plans to hold more leasing auctions during the first quarter 2022. In the largest offshore lease auction in U.S history, oil and natural gas companies won the rights to drill offshore on over 1.7million acres of the Gulf of Mexico. The sale has the “potential of emitting 723 million tonnes CO.”2According to the Center for American Progress, this is equivalent to operating more that 70 percent of the United States’ coal power plants for a year in the atmosphere over its lifetime.”
The Biden administration put an end to all new leasing in 2013. It claimed that the courts had ordered it to hold the auction. However, it later admitted that it had not been forced to. Biden also called on all nations to reduce their carbon emissions at COP26. He was encouraging oil-producing countries, to increase their production to meet rising energy prices.
6. Energy prices rose
Prices of oil, natural gas (including diesel) and coal rose by more than 80 per cent in 2021, as the demand for energy rebounded faster than production could handle. The prices of natural gas and coal reached record highs, and there was a global shortage of gas which led to increased demand for coal.
The result is that global coal production is expected increase 9 percent this fiscal year. According to the Energy Information Administration, U.S. home heating oil prices will be 39% higher than last year, natural gasoline will be 26% higher, and electricity will be 6 percent more. The cost of heating their homes could rise to 22 to 94 per cent. Although this would be a great time to increase efforts to transition towards clean energy, rising energy prices may actually slow the process.
Bordoff stated that the public is strongly supportive of decarbonization. Bordoff stated that consumers will choose the latter if they are forced to choose between emissions or expenses. Moving to clean energyWhile the system may reduce energy costs, there is always the possibility that it will not be smooth sailing and we can expect higher energy prices in the future. It is my hope that support for climate action will continue even during turbulent transitions.
What’s the bottom line
When asked if he was more or less optimistic about the future, he replied that he was. Climate changeBordoff said that despite the horrors of this year, he tried to remain optimistic. However, 2021 was a difficult year. We have seen the dangerous effects of a warming world through the devastation caused by floods in the U.S. and China as well as other severe weather events. Even though emissions have decreased for a while, they are still rising and will rise even more than before COVID. But it’s the public’s concern—especially among young people—over the climate crisis that gives me hope that we can finally make some of these difficult policy decisions that didn’t 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. Although we aren’t on the right track to solving the problem yet, we are making progress.
State of the Planet
Here are a dozen things that will help or hurt climate progress in 2021 (December 29, 2021).
Retrieved 29 Dec 2021
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