When it came to climate change, 2022 offered some reasonably good news and some pretty alarming bad news. On the plus side, the U.S. passed its most significant piece of climate legislation ever, with the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) — a bill that allocates hundreds of billions of dollars to clean energy and other low-emissions projects and, if fully realized, could take a big chunk out of the country’s carbon footprint.
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So where does that leave us as we head into 2023? Grid asked climate experts to weigh in on key climate policies and other developments they’re watching as we head into the new year.
One thing they can agree on: With every year that passes and every ton of carbon dioxide emitted, the chances of keeping to global temperature goals set forth in the Paris Agreement and averting the most widespread of catastrophes grow dimmer.
Here’s a look at what happened in 2022 and what we can expect in 2023.
Turning legislation into action
Also, some experts and activists are concerned that the IRA could allow further development of dirtier energy.
Schmidt agreed that the nuts and bolts of legislation, and the actual building out of technology that will help the climate, should be a key focus.
“One should distinguish between actual executive or legislative action” — like the IRA — “and toothless communiqués or talks about talks. The latter don’t appear to matter very much when it comes to actually reducing emissions,” he said. “Technological clean energy rollout for whatever reason is the most important thing to be looking at.”
Bipartisan appetite for climate progress?
Though a divided Congress likely means transformational legislation similar to the IRA is off the table for the next few years, some experts think there are still bipartisan climate wins to be had in 2023.
But with at least some support in both parties, Pendergrass said that there’s hope that it could still have some life left, and revisiting it could help speed some of the renewable energy deployment that Schmidt said is crucial to making progress against climate change in the coming years — though critics think it will also allow expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure.
Pendergrass said that a bright spot even with a divided Congress is that, in general, Republicans did not run against the IRA’s clean energy provisions during the midterms. “A lot of those clean energy provisions are wildly popular, and especially as they start being deployed out in American communities,” he said.
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Enduring war and looming recession threaten climate progress
This concept gains urgency as the noise around the developing world’s debt crisis grows louder. Many poor countries are mired in a debt cycle made worse by increasing climate extremes, with little way out.
“The [International Monetary Fund] recognizes that a number of countries are in debt distress but has been saying that there is no ‘systemic’ crisis yet,” Bhandary told Grid. “From a climate change vantage point, even if it’s true that there is no systemic crisis, these countries are not in a position to make investments. They can’t meet the urgency of the moment.”
Every year — and every fraction of a degree — matters
This year will also place the world one digit closer to some of the oft-discussed deadlines on climate — but it is important to remember that in spite of round numbers like 2 degrees or deadlines like 2030, the climate is changing in a continuous fashion, with every sliver of a degree piling risk upon risk.
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