A new year brings with it new opportunities and more of the same environmental threats from the previous 12 months.
But as we see year after year, many environmental problems tend to go unnoticed. Sure, climate change has started to get wider coverage from some newspapers and television networks, but many important news stories are still overlooked (or dismissed by partisan media).
Meanwhile, the media spends very little airtime or space on stories about endangered species, environmental justice, pollution or sustainability.
Perhaps that is why these issues also receive so little attention from legislators or the general public.
We can work to change that. Here are six of the biggest but likely to be ignored environmental stories that The Revelator hopes to follow in 2022.
Biden-Watch and the Specter of 2024
Following last year’s difficult elections, we proclaim 2021 as the start of “the rebuilding years. “
That has turned out somewhat true: under President BidenMany of the previous administration’s anti-environmental initiatives and deregulation efforts have fallen like dominoes.
But in other ways, Biden has failed to deliver on his campaign promises on environmental issues. In particular, the administration authorized new fossil fuel drilling rights at a breakneck pace in 2021, in stark contrast to the candidate’s promises (and even some of his early token actions, such as his executive order make the US government carbon neutral by 2050).
While the Beltway press doesn’t delve into this as often, all eyes should be on Biden’s upcoming environmental moves. Can you meet the real threats facing the planet? Or will this administration become yet another failure for climate and biodiversity?
We assume that it will be a combination of both, with some clear victories that need amplification and some partial or outright failures.
The real test in the political pudding will come this November, when the 2022 midterm elections could create long-term challenges for the planet.
The increasingly authoritarian Republican Party is doing everything he can play in your favor with the elections of 2022 and 2024: voter suppression, redistricting, removal of bipartisan election officials, and even passage of legislation that allows you to yield election results that the Republican Party does not like, all while perpetuating the damaging Big Lie of the election fraud to discredit the entire process.
The media, other legislators, activists and voters must ensure that this remains a key component of the stories we tell for years to come. Because if Trump or someone like him ascends to the presidency again in 2024, or if the Republicans take the House in 2022, then it is one step closer to the lights on the planet going out.
Biodiversity in crisis
Last year there were several general studies that identified the risk of extinction of large groups of species, and the news was not good. According to studies, a third of shark species are threatened, as are 30 percent of trees, half of all turtles, 16 percent of dragonflies and damselflies, 30 percent of European birds and 16 percent of Australian birds.
And then of course there were the extinctions.
Tragically, we do not expect any of this to decrease in 2022. We have already heard from sources about possible extinction declarations that could occur in the coming months, mainly for species that have not been seen in several decades.
As usual, few of these receive wide coverage in the media. We will do our best to bring you this news, as well as conservation success stories that tend to get overlooked in our “bleed, lead” media environment.
The pandemic will continue to affect the conservation movement as well, and we must keep these issues in the public eye. The past two years have seen much less research in the field around the world, although some scientists have begun to overcome the need to stay home and go out into the field.
Will the same happen with important international discussions? Currently, more than 190 nations are scheduled to meet in April to discuss global agreements to protect nature and biodiversity. The arrival of the omicron variant – yet another reminder that vaccines have not yet been equitably distributed around the world – has now put that gathering, and perhaps others like it, in jeopardy.
But life finds a way. Even if we can’t work in nature or in person, there is always Zoom. The work that concluded the risk of extinction for sharks would not have been possible without today’s online communication tools. These types of events do not generate as much media attention, but they will generate stories that are worth telling if we are open to listen.
A plastic mess
Will this be the year America finally hears the message about the dangers of plastic pollution?
Hopefully so, because a new report from the National Academy of Sciences, released in December, revealed that the United States is a major contributor to the problem. According to the report, US residents generated more plastic waste in 2016 than any other country – a staggering 42 million metric tons. That is more than the entire European Union and twice that of China.
The report, which was ordered by Congress, recommends that the United States develop a comprehensive policy to reduce plastic waste in the environment. Of course, lawmakers could get ahead if Congress passes the Break Free From Plastic Act introduced last March.
And there is another strategy as well: turning off the tap on plastic production by stopping the extraction of fossil fuels that provide raw materials for plastic and stopping the construction of massive new petrochemical facilities. The Army Corps of Engineers is in the midst of an environmental review of one such project now: a $ 9 billion Formosa Plastics project in St. James Parish, Louisiana. That could lay the groundwork for a lot of future progress.
Whatever happens, the focus must remain on this problem, which not only poisons communities but exacerbates the climate crisis. It is time for leadership, not just in this country, but around the world.
There should no longer be anything surprising in the fact that a I ride in wild weather every year now, as climate change increases heat and burdens many storms and wildfires.
Between 1980 and 2020, the United States averaged about seven weather and climate events that exceeded $ 1 billion each. But from 2016 to 2020 that average skyrocketed to 16.
Researchers are increasingly able to show the fingerprints of climate change in specific weather events. A Climate Brief investigation in the field of “extreme event attribution”, initiated by scientists at World Weather Attribution, showed that climate change made 70 percent of the 405 extreme weather events more likely or more severe. The media needs to make this connection more often.
So we know it’s coming. Now what are we going to do about it? Expect to see more stories about climate change resilience and how states will spend the $ 50 billion earmarked for protection against droughts, heat and floods on the new infrastructure bill. And hopefully we will see extensive coverage of how this money arrives the communities who need it most.
Do renewable energy well
We are on the move, or at least jogging, in the race to decarbonize. Initial projections show that by 2022 the United States could see a record amount of new wind power (27 gigawatts) online, as well as twice as much large-scale solar power (44 gigawatts) compared to last year, and six times more. Energy. storage (8 gigawatts).
Meanwhile, 28 percent of U.S. coal plants are projected to close by 2035.
But don’t get too attached to those projections for renewables. Rising costs and supply chain issues could delay or stop some planned projects. On the other hand, renewables could get a big boost if Congress succeeds in passing the Build Back Better bill.
The rise of renewables will also come with some other challenges that we need to consider: Can raw materials like lithium and cobalt be sourced without endangering human rights or terrestrial and marine ecosystems?
Can projects be located and managed in a way that does not exacerbate biodiversity concerns?
Can we ensure that poor communities and communities of color that have endured the brunt of the fossil fuel economy are the first beneficiaries in energy transition and leaders in the process?
These are the kinds of tough questions everyone should start asking as we make this vitally important transition.
Even amid the pandemic, dedicated environmental activists refused to let their voices be silenced.
We’ve seen a dramatic increase in direct action in recent months, with climate protesters temporarily disrupting Australia’s largest coal port by scaling and then suspending themselves from massive machinery, staging a very public 14-day hunger strike, defending a waterway. sacred. in British Columbia, protesting voting rights and much more.
And they are just warming up. The Extinction rebellion The climate protest group has vowed to return to direct action now that vaccination rates have increased; in fact, they have been quite active in recent weeks.
The protests and riots reflect social anger at the corporate and government resistance to reform. They present the world with dramatic images and powerful messages, many of which are ignored by the media and legislatures. These events may not accomplish much individually, but collectively, over time, they work.
This is also why this activism is so risky. Last month the Chilean activist Javiera Rojas was assassinated, the last in a ever-increasing chain of deaths and other violent attacks against environmental defenders around the world.
These are the stories that we should all see and the messages that we should never forget.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism