By Anders Lorenzen
2018 was hot, very hot.
The summer of 2018 seemed to have no end in sight. Where ever you were on this planet you were hammered by relentless heat which kept you longing for rain and winter weather while people surged to buy air condition coolers. For some, the heat and dry weather continued long into autumn with the state of California suffering the most severe wildfires in living memory with huge human and mounting financial costs.
The extreme temperatures made it as far north as the Arctic Circle in northern Sweden with wildfires burning out of control.
In 2018 we also became familiar with the word ‘Hothouse Earth’. The word was included in a report from the Stockholm Resilience Center which warned about climate tipping points even below a warming of 2 degrees C. The authors described that we are currently on a trajectory of a Hothouse Earn which will include irreversible planetary tipping points such as the melting of permafrost and die out of coral reefs. The report received widespread media coverage and was one of the most downloaded scientific reports of 2018.
The build-up to COP24
With California still suffering from the wildfires, the build-up to UNs annual climate conference began. A series of three unrelated climate reports from the UN indicated we are far behind on what’s needed to be done to fight climate change. One report stated that the emission reduction targets the world have signed up to, which by the way we are nowhere near on track to meet as the world is currently heading for a plus 3 degrees C temperature increase, is not enough to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. The report showcased that everything should now be done to avoid 2 degrees C and aim for a 1.5 degrees C target. With the world already having warmed just above 1 degree C that seems like a giant mountainous task. And if you bear in mind what another report says that we actually seem to be increasing our emissions instead of decreasing it. In 2018 we are likely to emit more carbon than what we did in 2017.
At the COP24 summit while something was agreed upon and a document was signed, it was not agreed upon to adopt the report which concluded that we should aim for 1.5 degrees C instead of 2 degrees C, but it does open up to the fact that countries should increase their emission reduction targets ahead of the Paris Agreement which is due to come into effect by 2020. But a huge cloud hangs over that agreement as Donald Trump wants to pull the US out of it which could now be followed by Brazil as their new far-right climate denying president Jair Bolsonaro has threatened to do just that. And if you really were to look at it with pessimistic eyes you could worry that Australia could go the same way with their coal-loving new president Scott Morrison who ousted the more moderate Malcolm Turnbull.
Not all doom and gloom
But of course, 2018 wasn’t all doom and gloom with the clean energy revolution marching on with not only several clean energy records having been set but also new innovations arrived with the R&D field continuing to grow. On top of that more and, more businesses are setting climate reduction goals and are investing renewables.
The rise of veganism
On top of that one movement that has a serious ability to cut carbon right here and right now moved mainstream, veganism. And if not veganism then at least flexitarianism with more and more people opting to at least cut down on the meat they consume. This is becoming more and more easy to do with a ton of new meat-free products having arrived on the supermarket shelves in 2018. As more and more companies are investing in innovating in this field, this will only accelerate in 2019.
Then one cannot forget about plastic pollution either, with 2018 being the year when many really started to realise the scale of the plastic crisis and it received regularly mainstream news coverage. The urgency to act on this will not go away and we can expect this to linger into 2019.
The Democratic fightback
In 2018 the world was increasingly worried about Donald Trump’s next steps, with the world’s media monitoring every move he made. We have argued that there’s a danger to focus too much on Trump as it might relegate important climate and energy stories not connected to the US of which there’s many. But perhaps the positive element of Trump in the White House is that people are starting to fight back with several states and businesses launching ambitious climate policies. And in the US midterm elections, the Democrats won the house back with several new representatives elected having put forward ambitious climate policies, meaning Democrats will chair committees being able to investigate Trump’s crackdown on climate and environment policies. And they will be able to at least pass new pro climate bills in the House.
What’s in store in 2019
In 2018 it is unlikely we will get a reduction of extreme weather events, but how they will unfold and what kind of events is anyone’s guess as the unpredictability of these events are getting higher every year. But one thing is for sure climate change will only become even more important in 2019. The pressure for countries to increase their emission reduction targets ahead of 2020 will intensify. Expect meatless diets to only gain more traction and popularity in 2019 while the strength and the growth of the green economy will continue to be a force to be reckoned with.