We say goodbye to a turbulent year. The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 meant not only the start of a war with far-reaching international political consequences, but also the awakening to an energy reality that has hit the stability of many countries.
The war further unbalanced the gas supply scenario and other natural energy resources, already volatile.
When Russia threatened to cut off the supply of natural gas to other territories, it highlighted Europe’s dependence on energy imports, as noted by the emeritus professor at the University of Barcelona, Mariano Marzo Carpio.
Countries have had to resort to imports of liquefied natural gas and other sources of energy such as nuclear or, in some cases, coal. For the first time, consumption restrictions have been applied, such as limits on air conditioning and lighting.
In any case, the conflict has served to make the deployment of renewables a priority.
The war also affected the food supply and its price. Juan Vázquez Rojo, from the Camilo José Cela University, explained to us that Ukraine is a major exporter of cereals, seeds, flour and sunflower oils. In vulnerable regions such as Africa and the Middle East, the increase in the cost of these products, and fertilizers, is a critical situation for many families.
A hot and dry summer
This summer has made many people accept that climate change is a reality. “It has come true. It always had been. But not for everyone”, pointed out the professor at the Rey Juan Carlos Concha Mateos University.
On the one hand, the intensity and duration of droughts is increasing, and the trend could worsen in the coming decades due to global warming. José Martínez Fernández and Laura Almendra Martín, from the University of Salamanca, have told us the results of a recent study in which they have verified that the soil in Europe has less and less water.
We have also experienced the effects of another consequence of climate change: increasingly scorching, longer and earlier heat waves due to the lengthening of the summer. Historical maximum temperatures have been reached that suggest that some areas of Spain could be around 50 degrees in the shade in the coming decades.
Both phenomena, droughts and heat waves, have configured a lethal cocktail, alerted the researcher from the National Museum of Natural Sciences Fernando Valladares. 120,000 people lost their lives in Spain during the summer months, not only due to heat stroke, but also due to the aggravation of existing pathologies and the collapse of medical care centers.
The professors of the Polytechnic University of Madrid Ester Higueras and Alicia Gómez Nieto propose some solutions to cope with the high temperatures in cities and prevent our health from being robbed. Increasing vegetation, taking advantage of the wind in urban design, and using light-colored pavements help reduce heat and increase humidity, ventilation, and shade.
Summer also brought an unusually early and aggressive fire season. It has been characterized by fifth-generation fires: “A simultaneity of large fires that jeopardize the extinguishing systems, in some cases even threatening urban centers”, described the professor at the University of Lleida Víctor Resco de Dios.
We must stop climate change, learn to adapt to fire and manage fuel in the bush to reduce the prevalence of fires.
The professor of the Public University of Navarra Rosa María Canals highlighted the importance of reactivating the rural world to create resilient landscapes through forest use, crop planning and extensive livestock farming.
The agreements and disagreements of COP27
Lastly, 2022 was the year of the twenty-seventh United Nations climate change summit (COP27), held in November in Sharm el-Sheikh (Egypt).
An agreement has finally been reached to create a financing fund for damages and losses caused by climate change that developed countries will provide to developing countries to reduce their vulnerability, the details of which were explained by Sonia Quiroga, a professor at the Complutense University of Madrid. .
But the most controversial issue, according to the professor at the University of Castilla-La Mancha Manuel de Castro Muñoz de Lucas, were the emission reduction commitments, which have not changed compared to the last COP26 and, therefore, are still insufficient to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees.
If we fail to mitigate climate change, we will only be left with adaptation. 2023 provides a new opportunity for countries to increase their efforts in both directions.