Forces Shaping 2023 – The New York Times

If the past is any prologue, then the tumultuous year that was 2022 should be taken as a guide to what will happen to our climate-changing world in the year ahead.

We are in a strange and disturbing purgatory. It is clear that the world has slowed the pace of warming since the establishment of the Paris Agreement in 2015. But it is also clear that the forces resisting change are powerful and the world remains on track to overcome relatively safe warming thresholds.

In 2022, seven transformative developments took place. They are certain to shape what is to come in 2023.

The war has changed the global energy landscape.

Russia used its fossil fuel wealth to fund its invasion of Ukraine. It then weaponized its oil and natural gas, completely upending the global energy landscape. The war has driven up the prices of almost everything that needs energy to be produced and shipped around the world, including, most alarmingly, food.

Europe is facing a settling of accounts. After relying so heavily on Russian gas for light and heating, European Union lawmakers are racing in 2022 to find alternative energy sources. The world’s gas producers were only too happy to comply, including the United States, the world’s largest gas exporter, which promised to ship liquefied natural gas for many years to come. .

Look what will happen in 2023. Will Europe build more pipelines and more gas import terminals to lock out dependence on hydrocarbons for electricity and heat? Or will Russia’s war in Ukraine accelerate its shift to renewables?

The International Energy Agency said there were signs the energy crisis could act as an “accelerator” for a transition to clean energy, only to warn that “even in a world where the prices of fossil fuels are high and volatile, it cannot be taken for granted that today the financial benefits of clean and efficient equipment will translate into more sustainable investment choices.

In the meantime, however, Europeans are suffering. The lights are dim in many European cities, including Paris. In Britain, high energy bills force people to sit in cold, damp houses.

Oil and gas made a killing.

Even as the war exposed the strategic risks of reliance on fossil fuels, oil and gas producers made record profits as demand for oil and gas rose from everywhere but Russia. The sector’s net income is expected to reach a record $4 trillion in 2022, double that of the previous year, according to the IEA. Consulting firm Deloitte has predicted increased investment in natural gas in 2023.

Democracy delivered two decisive elections.

In May, Australians toppled the Conservative coalition that had made Australia one of the most climate-vulnerable countries in the world, as well as one of the most recalcitrant when it came to cutting its emissions of climate-warming gases. planet. The new government, led by the Labor Party, passed a law obliging Australia to cut its emissions sharply by 2030, then a budget to increase renewable energy.

In October, Brazilians rejected their incumbent president, denying climate science, Jair Bolsonaro. Newly elected Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is to be inaugurated on January 1. Controlling deforestation in the Amazon will be one of its greatest challenges.

The United States has passed historic legislation.

The biggest polluter in history has finally passed big climate legislation, with big climate funds.

The $370 billion package pushes businesses to switch to renewable energy and makes public funds available for research into new climate innovations. “What we’re seeing are the green shoots of a new kind of industrial policy,” David Victor, a professor at the University of California, San Diego, said at a Brookings Institution event this month. .

The money starts flowing in 2023, and it is expected to reshape the American landscape and the lives of ordinary Americans. This will undoubtedly lead to local battles and unexpected challenges. This will be one of the most important stories to follow.

Mistrust grows.

The rich and poor countries of the world are bitterly divided. Poor countries are suffering from the inequitable distribution of Covid vaccines. Many are on the verge of defaulting on their debts to rich country creditors. Their economies have been hit by extreme weather disasters oversized by global warming.

The big breakthrough in this year’s climate talks was an agreement to create a fund to help poor countries deal with the irreversible economic loss and damage compounded by pollution spewed out by rich countries. Expect calls in 2023 for real money.

Given geopolitical fault lines, global climate cooperation is unlikely to be easy in 2023.

The protests have become more creative, more courageous.

Some climate activists threw food at famous paintings and got arrested, even though the art was protected by glass. Others deflated SUV tires in various cities. During the climate talks in Egypt, protests erupted not only over climate issues, but also to demand the release of political prisoners – remarkable for a country where demonstrations are banned.

Beyond the weather, it was a year of extraordinary events. Sri Lankans took to the streets and overthrew the government. In Iran, young people led a rare national uprising for social and political reform. Perhaps most notable of all, in China, people have taken to the streets to protest against the state’s “zero Covid” policy.

Watch where and how people’s anger is channeled in 2023.

The sun has passed.

Something extraordinary happened in the midst of so much suffering.

Solar power has grown so rapidly that the IEA has concluded it could overtake coal as the world’s leading source of electricity by 2027.

Admittedly, the use of coal has increased slightly this year, especially in countries seeking to exit Russian oil and gas. But the direction of change was clear: renewables are expected to double over the 2022-27 period, compared to the previous five years, and surpass coal’s share of total energy by 2025.

Also, in December, researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory cracked the code on what could possibly be a way to produce unlimited, carbon-free energy. Watch where this still-experimental nuclear fusion research will go next year, and beyond.

ICYMI: Huge legislation. Amazon’s Secret Airstrips. A trashy guessing game. The Times’ climate team reporters and editors have shared their favorite stories from 2022.

Switching in wind farms: The federal government is injecting $370 billion into clean energy. Despite this sum, the fate of wind power will largely be played out in rural town halls.

Offend everyone: A pitch for socially responsible investing from BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, seems to antagonize both left and right.

Google v Power Companies: The tech company says its carbon-free energy goals are being hampered by state-regulated utilities.

“Very disappointing” : President Biden has promised that the United States will allocate $11.4 billion a year to help the poorest countries deal with climate change. Congress offered $1 billion instead.

Cold Weather Questions: What is the polar vortex? What about a “bomb cyclone?” Can climate change increase snowfall? We have the answers.

Wild and wild: Famous artists are buried in the Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris. Increasingly, foxes, tawny owls and parakeets also call it home.

A crucial change: This may be the year the green transition began, writes Leah C. Stokes, associate professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Beyond Holiday Trash: Cartoonist Amy Hwang drew what happens to the things we throw away at Christmas.

A two-decade drought is forcing developers to find creative ways to provide water to new communities in the fast-growing Southwest. Developers are planting trees to slow evaporation, designing roads that can collect and store rain, and building water recycling systems. According to a development consultant, “We are at the very beginning of a new era of innovation and investment.”

Correction: The Tuesday, December 20 bulletin misrepresented Mark Carney’s role in the sale of Brazilian farmland. Mr. Carney held senior positions at Brookfield, the asset management company that sold the land. He did not own the land.


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