2022 brought all kinds of troubling news for nature
The planet’s condition was akilter on numerous natural fronts in 2022. Come and see:
The Northern Hemisphere summer was the second-warmest on record. July nights on average were the warmest on record in the United States. Heatwaves broiled China, India, Europe and parts of South America. Spain recorded its hottest year.
Droughts, a UN report said, have increased 29% in frequency and duration since 2000. Drought in the Horn of Africa pushed at least 23 million people into acute food insecurity, killed millions of livestock and cost the lives of hundreds of elephants and zebras.
Persistent drought lowered Lake Mead, which provides electricity and drinking water for Las Vegas, closer to dead pool status. Parts of the West readied tighter water-use rules. Great Salt Lake in Utah was shrinking.
Two-thirds of the planet’s tropical rainforests have been either destroyed or degraded, reported The Rainforest Foundation Norway. The Amazon rainforest is adding more warming gases to the atmosphere than it’s capturing, reported the journal Frontiers in Forests and Global Change.
Earth has about a 50% chance of reaching by 2026 the 1.5-degree Celsius heating threshold for triggering catastrophic weather worldwide, the World Meteorological Organization said. Fossil fuels worth $30 trillion would have to stay in the ground to allow for a 50% chance of meeting the 1.5-degree threshold by 2030, Nature reported.
About 40,000 delegates, many of them arriving in private jets, met in Cairo for the 27th U.N.-sponsored climate conference and decided to do almost nothing to curtail greenhouse gas emissions.
The Arctic has warmed nearly four times faster than the rest of the planet during the past 40 years, researchers said. More rain and changing seasons are disrupting natural patterns, stated the annual Arctic Report Card, representing more than 140 researchers. Temperatures soared in North Atlantic waters.
Climate change was cited as a cause of body shrinkage among some migrating bird species, a UCLA study said. About half of U.S. bird species have declined in number during the past 50 years, Cornell University reported.
Only about 10% of the world’s pre-settlement grasslands, irreplaceable habitat for an array of animals and plants, remain as the result of agricultural expansion and tree planting. U.S. grasslands birds have been especially hard hit.
Crashing numbers forced Alaska to cancel its winter snow crab season for the first time in history. The world’s population of vertebrate animals in the wild fell almost 70% between 1970 and 2018, the World Wildlife Fund reported.
Unprecedented monsoon rains claimed more than a thousand human lives and killed an estimated 700,000 livestock in Pakistan, a third of which was underwater for a time.
Strikes by cargo ships, researchers said, are largely to blame for a 50% decline in the number of endangered whale sharks, Earth’s biggest fish. A humpback whale known as Moon used only its pectoral fins to complete a 3,000-mile journey from near Canada to die in waters near Hawaii after its tail was paralyzed, most likely after being run over by a boat.
Colorado pot farms emit more carbon into the atmosphere than do the state’s coal mines, Colorado State University researchers said.
Microplastics comprised 4% of atmospheric dust particles, The New York Times reported. The equivalent mass of 120 million plastic water bottles falls with rain on 11 protected areas each year, Wire noted.
The emerald ash borer, scourge of ash trees in the East, was found in Oregon. On the brink of extinction from the spread of white-nose syndrome, the northern long-eared bat was placed on the U.S. endangered species list.