2021 Climate Year in Review
There was a lot of climate news in a year overflowing with news. We help you catch up. Were also covering and . Welcome to the final edition of Climate Fwd: for 2021! Despite the strange limbo status of this year (as our friends on the Styles desk ), a lot happened this year on the topic of climate change and the environment. Weve rounded up . It may seem hard to believe that the year started with a presidential transition, riots at the Capitol and a blackout in Texas but that was indeed this year. Before summer had even begun, drought, heat and fires were already bearing down on the West. Its been a year of challenges to a new administrations climate agenda at home in the United States. And then fall brought the United Nations international climate conference in Glasgow. (Next years event is scheduled for November in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.) Those are just a few big news stories. This year we also investigated, explained, debunked. for anything you might have missed. Think we missed something? Let us know. Thanks for reading. See you in 2022. Chile. The Democratic Republic of Congo. Bolivia. The United States. These far-flung locales have one thing in common: They are home to natural resources at the center of competition for electric-car resources that will shape the 21st century. For the latest article in The Timess , a yearlong project from colleagues all across the newsroom, Somini Sengupta traveled to the salt flats in Chile, the worlds second-largest producer of lithium. (Lithium is a key component in batteries.) As demand grows and prices soar, mining companies in Chile are keen to increase production, as are politicians who see mining as crucial to national prosperity. But some Chileans argue that the countrys very economic model, based on extraction of natural resources, has taken too high an environmental toll and failed to spread the benefits to all citizens, including its Indigenous people. Amid this boom, a group of Chileans have been elected to the Constitutional Convention to write a new constitution during what they have declared a climate and ecological emergency. The convention members will decide many things, including: How should mining be regulated, and what voice should local communities have over mining? Should Chile retain a presidential system? Should nature have rights? How about future generations? Read the competing forces they are up against. Someone buys an electric car and feels very good because theyre saving the planet, said Cristina Dorador Ortiz, a microbiologist who is in the Constitutional Convention. At the same time an entire ecosystem is damaged. Its a big paradox. Even by the standards of an already terrible year, the toll from the tornadoes that tore through the South and Midwest this month was shocking: killed across Kentucky and four other states, with many more left homeless. But that toll reflected the consequences of human decisions, as much the force of the tornadoes. As I recently, engineers know how to protect people and buildings against tornadoes: Safe rooms offer near-absolute protection, emergency officials say, while advances in structural design can keep buildings from flying apart in all but the most severe winds. Yet efforts to incorporate those advances into the building code have repeatedly been stopped or curtailed by the building industry, which experts say is driven by a concern about higher construction costs. That worry persists despite evidence that tornado-resistant design increases the price of building a house by as little as a few thousand dollars. In that sense, the failure to incorporate scientific advances into the building code may offer cause for hope: If the latest devastation was made worse by human decisions, then different decisions can make future disasters less deadly. It really does kind of boil down to money, said Jason Thompson, vice president of engineering at the National Concrete Masonry Association and one of the proponents of tougher codes. Theres just different groups out there that want to keep the cost of construction as low as possible. Since 1987, polar bear researchers at the Norwegian Polar Institute have staged annual field trips into the icy wilderness to find and study polar bears. . Super Typhoon Rai made its first landfall in the Philippines on Dec. 16, bringing torrential rains and packing winds up to 168 miles per hour. The countrys Climate Change Commission Undersea wells run by Taylor Energy have caused . The company was ordered . where officials said they have never before seen . Tens of thousands of people were forced to flee their homes. Two eminent scientists who helped shape our understanding of the planet, and particularly the animals we share it with, died this week: , 92, and , 80. As an expert on insects, Dr. Wilson studied the evolution of behavior, exploring how natural selection and other forces could produce something as extraordinarily complex as an ant colony. He then championed this kind of research as a way of making sense of all behavior including our own. In 2016, Dr. Wilson published Half Earth: Our Planets Fight for Life, . The book offers an improbable prescription for the environment: Dr. Wilson suggests that humans set aside roughly 50 percent of the planet as a sort of permanent preserve, undisturbed by man. ( .) Dr. Lovejoys field research in the Amazon was the centerpiece of a broad career dedicated to ecology. He invented debt for nature swaps, which let countries trade forgiveness of a portion of their foreign debt for their investments in conservation. He published an early projection of extinction rates, was a creator of the public television series Nature and popularized the term biological diversity, later shortened to biodiversity. The world needs to treat warming and biodiversity loss as two parts of the same problem, a new report said this fall. Until that happens, it said, neither problem can be addressed effectively. Meet some of The , which was held this past October, might be the most important global meeting youve likely never heard of. Dozens of countries are . Native people, often among the most effective stewards of nature, have been disregarded, or worse, in the past. Can that change?