December, for many, marks a time for reflection—a moment to take stock of the year’s accomplishments before sliding back into the daily grind of life. That’s why the last newsletter edition for the year will be dedicated to looking back at the stories that resonated the most with Today’s Climate readers in 2022.
In general, it has been a big year for my colleagues at Inside Climate News. From getting the latest updates on COP27 in Egypt to documenting the food crisis unfolding in the Horn of Africa, our reporters have worked tirelessly to bring you some of the most important climate stories of the year. And we’ve gotten a lot of love from you, our readers, who continue to share and support our work.
It has also been a banner year for Today’s Climate, with readership seeing record growth since we relaunched the newsletter in fall of 2021. So, before we ring in the new year, I hope you’ll enjoy—as much as I have—looking back at the most popular Today’s Climate issues of 2022.
Here are the top 5 newsletter stories of the year:
From Kentucky’s deadly floods to the record wildfires and drought across the American West, this summer epitomized, in many ways, what climate scientists have been warning about for decades.
So it was surprising to me, after yet another disaster-filled summer, to see a petition supposedly signed by “over 1,100 scientists and professionals” suddenly go viral online in mid-August, claiming that “there is,” in fact, “no climate emergency.” Immediately, I reached out to some of the leading climate researchers in their fields who were quick to point out that the petition wasn’t as it seemed.
“Looking at the list of signatories, there are a lot of engineers, medical doctors, and petroleum geologists and almost no actual climate scientists,” Zeke Hausfather, one of the world’s top climate modeling researchers, told me. Other climate experts noted that the group behind the message—the Climate Intelligence Foundation, or CLINTEL—has well-documented ties to oil money and fossil fuel interest groups, and that the petition appeared to recirculate old climate-denial tropes.
To me, the moment was a reminder of why I got into journalism in the first place: to provide accurate, verifiable and fair information for the sake of truth and healthy public debate.
In April, an estimated 1,000 scientists in more than 25 countries staged demonstrations to demand that world leaders do far more to reduce climate-warming emissions, including a handful of researchers who were arrested for locking themselves to entryways leading into the White House and major banks that fund fossil fuel projects.
While the actions themselves were common for climate activists and social movements in general, it was a striking moment when members of the scientific community departed from their typical role as a neutral information provider and picked up the torch of activism.
“I personally feel very strongly that we have a moral responsibility to do everything we can to wake up the public now, especially since it’s very clear that for decades, only residing within the peer reviewed literature has not worked at all,” Peter Kalmus, a NASA climate scientist who has now been arrested several times for civil disobedience related to climate protests, told me in an interview. “Scientists are people too, and we’re citizens, and we’re parents, and we also have a right to speak out like this.”
This spring, in fact, was a particularly busy time for climate scientists, who remain key sources and subjects for our journalism at Inside Climate News. In this case, a grim February update from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was followed by an equally grim slew of research papers published this spring that predicted horrific biodiversity loss and mass extinction because of climate change and other human activity.
Scientists have long said that the most significant impact of global warming was its threat to plants, animals and the ecosystems that ensure a healthy environment for all life on Earth. And these reports, many of which were published at an alarming rate in the month of April, pointed to levels of mass extinction not seen since the end of the dinosaur era.
“You really need to remember that we are species on a planet, and our fate is tied to the health of all of the other species on this planet,” Tierra Curry, a prominent U.S. biodiversity scientist, told me. “Killing the planet is killing ourselves, and that’s the message that everybody needs to absorb and start acting on.”
The West’s megadrought, by definition, is old news at this point. The term megadrought, after all, can only be applied after 20 years of ongoing drought conditions. But I think this story blew up because it provided a measurable milestone for a dry period that has become all too familiar for those living in states like California or Arizona.
In May, federal officials took unprecedented steps to protect the water levels of the Colorado River and prevent a key reservoir from dropping below the point where it can no longer produce electricity for some 6 million people in seven states who depend on it. By delaying the release of hundreds of thousands of acre-feet of water from Lake Powell—an annual task that has long been tradition—officials were able to safeguard the reservoir levels and keep the Glen Canyon Dam turbines spinning for the year.
For how long they can keep that up, however, remains to be seen. A December update on the dam from one of our publishing partners isn’t particularly promising, as conditions at the river have only gotten worse.
In June, scientists said they had created the “first detailed roadmap” for how the United States could achieve its ambitious climate pledge to slash the country’s greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030.
In a peer-reviewed study published in the journal Science, the researchers said it was both technically feasible and financially beneficial for the U.S. to rapidly transition to clean power sources and electric vehicles. In fact, one of the authors of the study told me, the only real obstacle holding the country back was a lack of political will.
While clearly a lot has happened since this study came out—most notably the passing of the historic Inflation Reduction Act—the research marked a rare positive moment in a news beat so often dominated by doom and gloom. In that sense, I also find it lovely that I get to end this list with an uplifting message—that while the evidence is clear that climate change is a serious and increasingly urgent threat, we also have the tools at our disposal to do something about it, so long as we can gather the political will to act.
Well, that wraps Today’s Climate for 2022. Thanks for reading and subscribing, and I’ll see you in the new year—but first:
What climate issues really caught your attention this year? And what will you be keeping an eye out for in 2023? We want to know. And of course, if you have any favorite editions of Today’s Climate that you want to share, we’d love to know that too.
As of this week, that’s how many readers have subscribed to receive Today’s Climate in their inboxes. Thanks for supporting our work, and happy holidays! We’ll see you in the new year.