Top Environmental Highlights of 2022 🎞️.

At some point this past year I started highlighting key takeaways in my climate research. Here I’ve synthesized some of the top facts and figures that stood out in 2022

Climate Change

We need to be making more progress faster:

Of the 40 indicators of global warming-limiting measures of progress established by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, none are on track to reach their 2030 targets. Six are heading in the right direction at a promising but insufficient speed, while 21 are also trending in the right direction but well below the required pace. Five indicators are trending in the wrong direction entirely:

  • Reducing fossil fuel use in electricity generation (at 24% vs 17% needed)
  • Reduce % of kilometers traveled by passenger car (at 44% vs 34% needed)
  • Reduce mangrove loss (at 32,000 hectares per year vs 4,900 hectares needed)
  • Reduce GHG from agriculture by 22% (at 5.8 Gigatons/yr, need 4.6 gigaton)

The exponential effects of Global Warming:

At 2 degrees of Global Warming, in many parts of the world, floods that used to hit once a century would come every single year, and those that came once a century would be beyond all historical experience. The effects would be uneven: In India, by the end of the century, there would be 30 times as many severe heat waves as today, according to one estimate. Ninety-three times as many people would be exposed there to dangerous heat.

The number of people exposed to extreme smoke days in the American West has already grown 27-fold in the last decade.

Drought across the Northern Hemisphere was made 20 times more likely by climate change this year.

We can expect up to a tenfold increase in heat-related deaths in the eastern United States by the latter half of the 2050s

The number of vertebrates that have gone extinct over the last 100 years should have taken 800 - 10,000 years

Once emitted, carbon remains in the atmosphere for 5,000 years.

How to take action

One of the best ways to create impact is to donate. Recommended climate charities have in the past averted a tonne of CO2 for less than $10. Not all charities are equal. You can often 100x impact by supporting top rated charities according to Founder’s Pledge.

In the West, having one fewer child has a 20-30X greater impact than any other individual action, followed by going car-free, switching to green heating, or taking one less transatlantic flight (I would argue that living in less square footage with more people should make that list…)

Climate Justice

Tackling climate starts with tackling inequality:

The carbon emissions of richest 1% set to be 30 times the 1.5°C limit in 2030

The African continent is responsible for only 3% of global CO2 emissions, yet it is on the front lines of the world’s climate, energy and food crises - home to 60% of the world’s poorest people, who are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

The average American emits 18 tonnes of CO2 per year. The average Indian, 1/10th of that

Rich Americans enjoy almost 50 percent more greenery in their environment compared with lower-income communities. The average temperature can vary up to 10 degrees between places with trees and those without.

More vegetation near a building contributed to 52 percent fewer crimes overall and 56 percent fewer violent crimes according to one study

95% of deforestation occurs in the tropics. 71% of this is driven by demand in domestic markets, and the remaining 29% for the production of products that are traded. High-income countries were the largest ‘importers’ of deforestation, accounting for 40% of it. 79% of exported deforestation ended up in those countries that had stopped losing domestic forests.

Sustainability by Sector

Food and Agriculture

Agriculture uses about 70 percent of the world’s freshwater supply.

Energy

The US grid is currently 32% gas, 30% coal, 20% nuclear (82% of total), and the remainder is mainly hydro and wind.

Solar capacity in the United States has risen nearly 300-fold since 2008, to 130.9 gigawatts in 2022. Solar energy could account for as much as 45 percent of the U.S. electricity supply by 2050.

Transportation

Cycling is ten times more important than electric cars for reaching net-zero cities. People who cycled on a daily basis had 84% lower carbon emissions from all their daily travel than those who didn’t. Taking into account the carbon generated by making the vehicle, fuelling it and disposing of it, emissions from cycling can be more than 30 times lower for each trip than driving a fossil fuel car, and about ten times lower than driving an electric one.

Just one roundtrip transatlantic flight contributes nearly a quarter of the annual emissions of the average Swede. Flying first class would produce nearly the entire annual emissions of the average Swede.

Technology

From the book World Wide Waste:

Around 90% of data is never accessed three months after it is first stored. Businesses typically only analyze around 10% of the data they collect. 90% of all sensor data collected from Smart Home devices is never used. The average app loses 77% of its users within the first three days after the install.

1.6 billion trees would have to be planted to offset the pollution caused by email spam. 1.5 billion trees would need to be planted to deal with annual e-commerce returns in the US alone. 231 million trees would need to be planted to deal with the pollution caused as a result of the data US citizens consumed in 2019.

As of 2021, climate tech accounts for 14 cents of every venture capital dollar