By Tom Last
As 2022 ends, it is important that we review the year from an environmental perspective and look ahead to what mother nature may have in store for us in 2023. Most importantly, we need to reflect on how we ourselves can take steps to change our behavior to help reduce our carbon footprint and avoid the most lethal effects of a warming planet.
Most recently, Buffalo was hit with 66 inches of snow in November, with a record 21.5 inches dropped in a 24-hour period. This was followed by a snowfall of 30.4 inches on the evening of Christmas Eve. This latest storm was responsible for the deaths of 27 people in Western New York alone. During the November storm Governor Hochul announced “the state needed to take precautions to prepare for such storms, as climate change has appeared to make extreme weather more common. “
Storms - In addition to the snowstorms that pummeled Buffalo, major storms in 2022 caused deaths and destruction with crippling floods in Missouri and Kentucky along with unprecedented flooding in Yellowstone National Park. A deadly collection of 83 tornadoes tore across the south and let’s not forget hurricane Ian that left tens of billions of dollars of damage in its wake.
Heat - In the U.S. in 2022 we had the 6th warmest August, the 5th warmest September, the 4th warmest October, and the 9th warmest November in 143 years. Record setting heat days have outnumbered record setting cold days 2 to 1 in 2022. Overall, 2022 was the third-hottest US summer on record in the past 128 years.
Drought - One of the major effects of climate change is drought. In the U.S., the past 22 years have seen the worst drought in hundreds of years. Lake Mead, in Nevada, and Lake Powell, in Utah and Arizona, have reached a ‘dead pool’ status as they continue to shrink. These conditions will continue to impact regional water supplies and other resources, such as hydropower, recreation, and ecological goods and services.
Wildfires - 7,772,995 is the number of acres burned by wildfire in the U.S. as of Dec. 23, according to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC). To put that number into perspective, Rhode Island is only 700,000 acres. Alaska alone saw more than 3 million acres burned in 2022, New Mexico experience record wildfires this spring, and other states such as Texas, Oregon and Idaho saw hundreds of thousands of acres burned too.
The human and financial costs of these climate related disasters – Hurricane Ian was the deadliest catastrophe in the U.S. with at least 131 people killed. Overall, there have been more than 350 deaths in the U.S. attributed to climate and weather-related disasters in 2022. The financial costs of these storms are staggering with Hurricane Ian estimated at more than $100 billion alone. In the last eight consecutive years the United States has experienced 10 or more billion-dollar, weather-related disasters each year.
A look ahead – Well, as I am writing this article on January 1st it is a balmy 54 degrees here in the Rockaways, about 15 degrees warmer than the norm with similar weather expected for the rest of the week. The bigger picture – most scientists and governments around the world have predicted that the extreme weather conditions of 2022 will be the norm with worsening climate effects over the next decades, unless we reverse the course of climate change.
Optimism in the fight against climate change – In 2022 a # of key events occurred that give us hope in combating climate change and avoiding its most disastrous effects. First, the U.S. government passed the ‘Inflation and Reduction Act’ that will invest $370 billion on energy efficiency and in combating climate change. This investment will keep us on target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as part of our commitment to the Paris Agreement. The Bill will make green energy solutions more affordable for US companies and consumers.
I feel the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference was the 2nd most important event to occur in 2022 that will have a positive effect in fighting climate change. This event was attended by diplomats from over 200 countries who stressed the need to take immediate action to fight climate change. We believe each nation that attended the Climate Change Conference will be more committed to fighting climate change this time around due to the dire climate conditions experienced by all.
Another important event that took place in 2022 was the agreement between the U.S. and China to restart climate change talks. As the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases, it is important for both countries to take the global lead in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to help in creating and supplying green technology solutions for the world.
You can make an immediate impact on reducing your carbon footprint by following any of the following tips.
- Lower your thermostat a degree or two during the winter.
- Close your blinds, shades, and curtains at night to keep heat in your house. Keep them open during the day to catch the sun and warm your house.
- Go vegetarian one or two nights a week and cut down on beef and dairy overall.
- Leave the car at home whenever possible. Walk, bike, use mass transit, or carpool instead.
- Don’t waste food.
- Eliminate single use plastics. Use a re-usable water bottle and coffee mug.
- Compost and recycle.
- Use LED lightbulbs.
- Lower your water heater to 120 degrees.
- Only wash full loads of laundry and dishes.
- Turn off gadgets and devices like laptops and tablets when not in use.
- Insulate your home better by using weather strippers and sealants.
Climate change can be a difficult topic to broach and the year in review seems stark. However, there is hope for the future! Start acting now to fight climate change, so we can leave a healthier world for future generations.
Remember there is no Planet B.