2022 was a landmark year for climate change action—and repercussions.

President Biden signed the historic Inflation Reduction Act to boost clean energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the midst of the hottest August on record for North America and Europe.

Following a summer of historic flooding that put one-third of Pakistan under water, the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP27 in November recommitted to the goals set by the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement and agreed to help countries most vulnerable to climate change.

Also in November, U.N. officials met in Uruguay to discuss terms for a treaty to end plastics pollution by 2040, and in December COP15 participants meeting in Montreal adopted a framework to address biodiversity loss, protect indigenous rights and restore the ecosystem.

Whether these actions will be enough to help put the brakes on global warming and keep rising temperatures to less than 2 degrees Celsius—preferably, to 1.5 degrees as stated in the Paris Climate Agreement—depends on steps taken in 2023, experts at Northeastern say.

News@Northeastern spoke to associate law school professor Alexandra Meise, engineering professor Auroop Ganguly and public policy professor Maria Ivanova—experts in energy use, climate adaptation and resilience and plastics pollution diplomacy, respectively—about what needs to happen in the next 12 months to meet climate change challenges.

Alexandra Meise

“If I had to pick one event or point of progress to look at in 2022, that would be the Inflation Reduction Act and the $369 billion in climate change-related investments that are going to stem from that,” says Alexandra Meise, associate teaching professor at Northeastern University School of Law.

She called the legislation “transformative” in the way it will enable the U.S. to meet its emission reduction targets and transition “from the use of fossil fuels into greener technologies for power generation and transportation.”

It’s crucial that the U.S. and other countries pick up the pace to meet the goal of preventing temperatures from rising more than 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, Meise says.

“We’ve heard a lot of talk. Now we have to see what the action is,” she says.

Parties to the Paris accords have been making progress, Meise says. But “they haven’t been making progress fast enough on reducing emissions to hit needed targets.”

Progress of course depends on the continued cooperation of politicians across the globe.

In the U.S., Meise says she hopes the Republican-controlled House of Representatives will see the benefits of supporting improvements to the infrastructure and green energy.

The U.S. is increasingly seeing the impact of changing climate in terms of intensified storms and heat waves, flooding and droughts.

“That’s really bringing climate change home to individuals in a way that they may not have thought about before,” Meise says.

“This is a security threat that’s right at your front door because your front door is flooded or your power has gone out.”

In Europe, the Russia-Ukraine war poses a major risk to emissions reductions as European nations debate whether to fire up coal plants in lieu of Russian oil and natural gas shipments.

“It certainly is an issue,” Meise says, adding that the situation raises concerns about how countries will be able to meet their green energy goals while still keeping the lights on.


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