Climate Review of the Year

I hope 2022 will go down as the year the world woke up to the climate emergency. Extreme weather events have hit every part of the globe, including Sheffield. So far the planet has heated 1.2C. We are on track for 1.5C by 2030, 2C by 2050, and over 3C by 2100. 2022 was the hottest year in the UK since records began, and will probably be the hottest year globally. 96% of oil and gas companies are still expanding operations, further accelerating the climate emergency.

I am indebted to Climate Vanguard for compiling this list of climate events which I have summarised below.

In February, 13 million people in the Horn of Africa faced severe hunger due to the worst drought in 40 years.

April saw 341 deaths and over 40,000 affected due to unprecedented flooding in Durban, South Africa.

In April and May, there was a heatwave in South Asia. Temperatures soared to reach 49C in India and 51C in Pakistan, leading to crop failure and water shortages.

In June in Italy, the River Po experienced its worst drought in 70 years, damaging agriculture. Tokyo had the worst heatwave since records began. 

In July Sydney flooded, which was the third extreme flooding event in 18 months in New South Wales. A “Heat apocalypse” in Western France, forced 25,000 to flee their homes.

On July 19th, we experienced 40.3C in the UK, the hottest day on record. This beat the previous record of 38.7C set only 3 years ago in 2019.

In August wildfires covered 3 million acres of the Arctic. More than 100 municipalities in France ran out of drinking water due to the heatwave and the River Rhine almost ran dry. Water levels became so low in the Elbe River in the Czech Republic that a “hunger stone” from 1616 was revealed with the message  “If you see me, then weep”. Torrential downpours in New Zealand displaced 1,200 people, a summer heatwave in China was the most severe ever recorded in the world, with peak temperatures of 45C.  66 rivers dried up resulting in mass crop failure. 937 people were dead, and 30 million were displaced, due to horrific flooding in Pakistan.

Between June and November flooding in Nigeria, Niger and Chad killed hundreds, with 1.5 million people displaced.

The extreme cold in the USA is currently causing chaos. Did you know that a hotter climate can bring bigger snowstorms? Here in the UK, we will face extremely cold winters if the Jet Stream, which usually keeps us warm, is diverted due to the melting arctic. 

What developments have there been locally to change this trend to more extreme weather? We have seen the partial development of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in Nether Edge and Crookes and more investment to improve cycle routes. This year we will see the implementation of the long-awaited Clean Air Zone in the city centre. But what good these do will be undone by the cuts to our bus services and the unreliability and expense of our train services which encourage more and more people to drive. 

Geoff Cox, Chair of South Yorkshire Climate Alliance, recently went to the Sheffield Council meeting to demand that they bring forward the plans to reduce Sheffield’s emissions. We are supposed to be aiming to be a carbon-neutral city by 2030, but as yet we don’t even have the plans to show how we are going to get there, let alone implement them. 

Nationally we have seen a Government implementing legislation to attack climate protestors rather than legislation to tackle the real problems, the climate and nature emergencies.

The Conservatives are binning many EU laws that have previously protected nature and are encouraging so-called “Investment Zones” which wildlife organisations call an attack on nature. They have destroyed any credibility in the myth that the UK is leading in tackling climate change by giving the go-ahead for a new coal mine.

Internationally we have seen two major conferences, COP27 and COP15. The breakthrough of COP27 was the establishment of a Loss and Damage Fund to help vulnerable countries cope with the destructive impacts of climate change. COP15 focused on biodiversity. The agreement they reached aims to address species loss, restore ecosystems and protect indigenous rights. The stakes could not be higher: the planet is experiencing its largest loss of life since the dinosaurs. One million plant and animal species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades.
Neither of the agreements from COP27 or COP15 were legally binding so I am not confident nations will follow through and implement them. In 2023 we need many more people to actively challenge their Governments to do the right thing for the planet. Make it your New Years’ resolution to get involved and campaign for change. You could do something practical like joining a litter-picking group or getting involved in wildlife protection, you could join a pressure group and get involved in campaigning or you could join a political party and make sure they put climate at the top of their agenda. But do something! Ignoring it won’t make it go away! For inspiration see the long list of campaigning groups on South Yorkshire Climate Alliance’s website. (https://www.southyorkshireclimatealliance.org.uk/groups)

Graham Wroe

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