The heat has been ferocious. The cold was clearly imported from deep space. UV indicators were so bad you could get skin cancer just thinking about them. Climatologists had a record year for grumpiness. And the carbon footprint is taking on Sasquatch proportions.
Our planet in 2023 was hotter, colder and less protected than any other year in recent history.
Not only that, but the weather always seems a lot worse during times of human tragedy and conflict, doesn’t it? So however cold we felt, they felt a lot colder in Ukraine. Likewise, feeling the heat in Gaza. Misery loves climate extremes.
But there were some climate positives in 2023. Four of them, to be exact. Feel free to roll your eyes at this point. But the door’s open just a crack. So we’re going to barge in and shout a little about stuff we hope has some domino effect.
Almost 200 countries agreed to “transition away” from fossil fuels. Or at least agreed to contribute to that goal. Which is progress, one supposes. But to ordinary people, no one has clearly explained why it took 28 meetings to get almost 200 countries to acknowledge the biggest problem. Or that “transition” seems to be so ambiguous that the way ahead could be full of loopholes. It’s all very well broadcasting lots of pictures of important people clapping at a conference. But unless the so called common goodwill generated in Dubai is actioned with purpose, COP could very well become COP OUT.
Zero Deforestation in the Amazon
Now this really does look like good news. The ‘lungs of the world’ experienced nearly 25% less deforestation in the last year, giving Brazil a seat at the climate positives table. Lula da Silva’s pledge to achieve zero deforestation by 2030 is off to a great, energetic start. However, the president’s popularity has dipped alarmingly in recent months and the stain of two vote-buying scandals are proving difficult to remove. Such is the rollercoaster of Brazilian politics that Lula da Silva may well find himself out of a job quite soon. Let’s hope the deforestation pledge finds a new benefactor. The alarm was triggered by astronaut Mary Cleave. It should still be ringing.
China’s capability to provide solar power is greater than the rest of the world combined. That’s an incredible statistic from a country that had lagged so far behind the rest of the world since solar power was a thing. But their accelerated program has been a masterclass in treating the need as a global imperative. They haven’t just surprised the world, they’ve surprised themselves by being five years ahead of their wind and solar power targets.
10,000 kilometres to the west, Portugal recorded six days relying solely on renewable energy, with no drop in consumption habits of ten million people for the entire period.
That’s an impressive marker to lay down.
The Ozone Layer
The ozone layer is repairing itself so fast it’s almost as if it had written its own Vision 2030. 44 years ago, the world was introduced to the horrors of two specific acronyms. The first was AIDS, which has taken up until now to marginalize – to some extent. The other was CFC, or chlorofluorocarbons. In the rampaging consumerist society of the eighties, this was to the Earth what AIDs was to humanity. Refrigerators, aerosols, packing materials, foams. All needed CFCs to do what they were designed to do. But CFCs also depleted the ozone layer, rendering it unable to protect the planet’s climate from ultraviolet rays. Rays that are extremely harmful to human beings, triggering cancer, blindness and in a perverse connection to AIDS, wreaking havoc on human immune systems.
Well, thanks to 1989’s Montreal Protocol, CFCs no longer exist.
And this year, it was reported that the ozone layer will be back to its pre-1980 shielding levels by 2040 and is already 98% effective. Slightly longer, apparently, over the polar regions.
We can celebrate these climate positives. But I have a feeling that climatologists will be even grumpier next year than they were in 2023.
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