The year in climate news
Welcome to the latest edition of Climate Fwd: for 2021! Despite the bizarre state of limbo this year (as our friends at the Styles office described it), a lot has happened this year on the subject of climate change and the environment. We rounded highlights from our coverage here.
It may seem hard to believe the year started with a presidential transition, riots on the Capitol and a power outage in Texas – but it was good this year. Even before summer began, drought, heat and fires were already sweeping the West. It has been a year of challenges for a new administration’s climate agenda in the United States. And then the fall brought the United Nations international climate conference to Glasgow. (Next year’s event is slated for November in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.)
These are just some big news. This year, we have also investigated, explained, demystified. Take a look at our roundup for anything you might have missed. Do you think we missed something? Let us know.
Thanks for reading. See you in 2022.
Chile rewrites its constitution with mining – and the climate – at the center
Chile. The Democratic Republic of Congo. Bolivia. United States. These remote regions have one thing in common: They are home to natural resources at the center of the competition for the electric car resources that will shape the 21st century.
For the latest article in The Times’ Race to the Future series, a year-long project by colleagues across the newsroom, Somini Sengupta traveled to the salt marshes of Chile, the world’s second-largest lithium producer. (Lithium is a key component of batteries.)
As demand increases and prices skyrocket, Chilean mining companies want to increase production, as do politicians who view mining as essential to national prosperity. But some Chileans argue that the country’s very economic model, based on the extraction of natural resources, has had too high an environmental impact and has failed to benefit all citizens, including its indigenous peoples.
Amid this boom, a group of Chileans were elected to the Constitutional Convention to draft a new constitution as they declared a “climate and ecological emergency”.
Many things will be decided by convention members, including: How should mining be regulated and what voice should local communities have on mining? Should Chile keep a presidential system? Should nature have rights? What about future generations?
Read the full article to see the competing forces they face.
Quote: “Someone buys an electric car and feels great because they are saving the planet,” said Cristina Dorador Ortiz, microbiologist and member of the Constitutional Convention. “At the same time, an entire ecosystem is damaged. It is a great paradox.
We know how to protect people and buildings from tornadoes. So why not us ?
Even by the standards of an already terrible year, the toll from the tornadoes that ravaged the South and Midwest this month has been shocking: more than 90 people have been killed in Kentucky and four other states, and many others are homeless.
But this record reflected the consequences of human decisions, as well as the strength of tornadoes. As I wrote recently, engineers know how to protect people and buildings from tornadoes: Safe parts offer “almost absolute protection,” emergency service officials say, while advances in structural design can keep buildings from shattering except in the strongest winds.
Yet efforts to incorporate these advancements into the building code have been repeatedly stopped or curtailed by the building industry, which experts say is driven by concern over higher construction costs. This concern persists despite evidence that tornado-resistant design increases the cost of building a home by just a few thousand dollars.
In this sense, failure to incorporate scientific advances into the building code can be a source of hope: if the latest devastation was made worse by human decisions, then different decisions may make future disasters less deadly.
Understanding the latest news on climate change
The climatic consequences of the loss of Build Back Better. Without the climate provisions of the legislation, the United States appears very unlikely to meet President Biden’s greenhouse gas reduction targets.
Quote: “It really comes down to money,” said Jason Thompson, vice president of engineering at the National Concrete Masonry Association and one of the proponents of stricter codes. “There are just different groups who want to keep the cost of construction as low as possible. “
Also important this week:
Say goodbye to two champions of saving the virgin places of the earth
Two prominent scientists who have helped shape our understanding of the planet, and especially the animals we share it with, have passed away this week: Edward O. Wilson, 92, and Thomas Lovejoy, 80.
As an insect expert, Dr Wilson has studied the evolution of behavior, exploring how natural selection and other forces can produce something as extraordinarily complex as an ant colony. He then championed this type of research as a way to make sense of all behavior, including ours.
In 2016, Dr Wilson published “Half Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life,” his 32nd book and a personal exhortation to conserve biodiversity. The book offers an unlikely prescription for the environment: Dr Wilson suggests that humans set aside about 50 percent of the planet as some sort of permanent, undisturbed storehouse. (This interview explores her lifelong quest, in her own words.)
Dr. Lovejoy’s field research in the Amazon has been the centerpiece of a vast career devoted to ecology. He invented “debt-for-nature” swaps, which allow countries to exchange forgiveness of part of their foreign debt for their investments in conservation. He published an early projection of extinction rates, was one of the creators of the public television series “Nature” and popularized the term “biological diversity”, later abbreviated as biodiversity.
Read more news on biodiversity from 2021:
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