Our atmospheric ills continued to crystalize in 2021. Two huge, converging weather phenomena created a massive heat dome above the Pacific Northwest. They blew through heat records while killing hundreds of peopleThe death of a person who died from hyperthermia or another heat-related illness. Globally, there are more than 4,000 migrantsMany of the victims died while moving on land or by sea, fleeing from unlivable climatic conditions.
Researchers uncovered stronger evidence that the global ocean conveyor belt — the one that keeps hot and cool air flowing to corners of the Earth at levels that sustain life — has slowed to a rate of circulation more sluggish than any time in the last 1,000 years. As Bill McKibben wrote for the New Yorker: “We’re breaking really big things.”
But we’re also building “really big things” — namely, movements — activists and scholars point out, as climate scientists stress that there’s still time to mobilize to avoidThe most severe impacts of the climate crisis. And so, this year’s climate “wins,” organizers say, are essential to take stock of.
“I personally celebrate every single victory, small or large,” Joye Braun, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and national pipelines organizer for Indigenous Environmental Network, told Truthout. It is exhausting to be an organizer, she said. It means being vilified for standing up for clean air and water, facing death threats by multinational corporations, and keeping hope alive while long-overdue federal climate legislation gets blocked by a system where a single fossil fuel-backed lawmaker, Sen. Joe Manchin (D. West Virginia), has the power. knock it on its heels.
“You need [to celebrate] in order to keep going, to know that you can fight against these extractive industries and win,” Braun said. These wins add up. A study by Stanford sociologist John Muñoz found that greenhouse gas emissions decline in states where there are higher levels of “pro-environmental protest.”
As such, Truthout asked organizers and scholars about the triumphs and trends they’re most heartened by this year. Here’s what they said.
We Know Who’s at Fault
Big Oil executives were called for the first time in their history to publicly answer questions under oath about how they knowingly deceived the public about gas and oil’s outsized contribution to the climate crisis. Unsurprisingly, during the six-hour hearing, many dodged the toughest questions — such as whether their companies would commit to stop lobbying against laws designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But shaming, and namingIt was. The companies Were subpoenaed, and are now required to discloseHow much they spend to fund climate policy campaigns.
“We need to get to the bottom of the oil industry’s disinformation campaign, and with these subpoenas, we will,” saidRep. Carolyn Maloney (D. New York), was the one who led the hearing.
The six-hour event wasn’t Big Oil’s first reckoning, but it did help put more faces to names for a public increasingly familiar with the forces driving the climate crisis, which the oil and gas industry has fought hard to blunt. According to a United NationsA poll was conducted earlier in the year and found that the majority of people around the world believe climate change to be a global emergency.
And 60 percentAccording to a poll conducted by the University of Texas, most Americans now believe that oil companies are to blame and should face accountability. The Guardian, Vice NewsAnd Climate Coverage Now. A stronger rallying cry for climate activism will be based on clearer evidence of culpability. “Abolish these oil companies, finish them, get rid of them, no more,” Ayisha Siddiqa, co-founder of youth activist group Polluters Out, told The GuardianThis was in April. Scholars suggest that such sentiments could generate greater support for a fossil fuel phaseout, including potential “managed decline” — the shifting of fossil fuel entities to public ownership, enabling the government to protect workers from widespread layoffs and prevent executives from continuing to benefit from extraction and bailouts.
One-Third Of Major North American Pipeline Projects Had to Be Cancelled
In May, activist organizations played a key part in the outcome of the Keystone XL cancellationThe launch of the Pipeline Fighters Hub — a “one-stop shop” where members of the public, the media and decision makers could access information about pipeline proposals, protests and how to support those on the front lines.
“When farmers, ranchers, Tribal Nations, and climate activists took on Keystone XL over a decade ago, Big Oil had a playbook to bully us,” said Jane Kleeb, the founder of activist group Bold Nebraska, in a press release. “We formed an unlikely alliance and learned how to fight back.”
Three more fossil fuel projects were added to the list of 12 that the hub had formally mobilized against in the months that followed. Plains All American cancelled the project in July. Byhalia ConnectionThe, which would have sliced through a string of historically Black neighborhoods, Memphis, Tennessee; in September PennEast announcedIt would no longer build a natural gas pipeline running 115 miles from the Marcellus Shale through New Jersey. Pembina dropped the idea in December. Jordan Cove LNG export terminal projectThe associated Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline would have crossed 485 rivers, streams, and impacted Klamath territory.
“A lot of those victories have come about because there have been greater alliances built,” said Braun, who is closely involved with the Pipeline Fighters Hub, noting that activists are increasingly savvy about fossil fuel developers’ manipulative and racist tactics.
Justin J. Pearson, co-founder of Memphis Community Against the Pipeline, the coalition that resisted the Byhalia Connection, credited the growing national network for the Bluff City’s win. “Many folks across the country sent emails, made phone calls, signed the petition or invited us to speak about this issue and elevated it to a national level,” Pearson told TruthoutSoon after the July cancellation of pipeline, “We are a part of a history of pipeline fighters, some who have lost, and yet sparked that resistance.”
Indigenous Leaders Are in Powerful Positions
Indigenous leaders have been appointed to top government positions in Canada, Chile, the United States, and elsewhere. Inuk leader Mary Simon was named the first Indigenous person to serve as Canada’s governor general; and Mapuche scholar and activist Elisa Loncón was appointed president of Chile’s Constitutional Convention.
Stateside, Charles F. Sams III was elected the governor in November. He was a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. first Indigenous person appointed to lead the National Park Service, following Deb Haaland’s historic Make an appointmentTo head the Department of the Interior in March. Haaland is an enrolled member at Laguna Pueblo.
“Her nomination for secretary of the interior largely came about because Indigenous activists had a wild idea, tested it, and lobbied President Joe Biden to follow along,” Jenni Monet, herself a member of the Pueblo nation, wrote in Sierra Magazine.
Representation does not always mean the same thing. Many, if not all, resistance comes from outside the current political system. However, species are disappearing faster than ever before. any other period of human history and it’s clear who’s best at maintaining healthy ecosystems. Although Indigenous peoples only make up about 5% of the population, 5 percentthe population and live on 25 percent of Earth’s surface, their lands contain as much as 80 percentConservation of biodiversity.
Appointing Indigenous leaders could have a greater potential for implementing policies that deliver social and environmental protections, such as restoring tribal homelandsBraun has been able to achieve this feat, even though it is not as easy as electing or appointing settler colonial counterparts. It should be noted that Haaland’s hands have thus-far been largely “tied by the Biden administration’s policies.”
Haaland is Haaland herself explainedAt the June National Congress of American Indians midyear conference, Indigenous appointments begin to address a legacy of injustice. “This moment is profound when we consider that a former secretary of the interior once proclaimed his goal was to, quote, civilize or exterminate us…. I am a living testament to the failure of that horrific ideology.”
Major Milestones for Cities and States
The state of Nebraska has been named the best in the country just this month. first red state in the nationNew York City was the largest American municipality to adopt plans to completely decarbonize its grid. ban new natural gas hookupsIn buildings.
New York City’s ban on natural-gas hookups effectively eliminates the use gas for heating and cooking. This follows similar actions by other cities. over 40 other U.S. cities. The problem appears to be worsened by gas-burning stoves risk of childhood asthmaDue to the release of particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide during combustion, urbanization is a leading cause. Natural gas infrastructure, which includes hookups, is a major contributor to urbanization. methane leakage. Overall, buildings and construction account to some 40 percentall energy-related greenhouse gases.
Ben Furnas, the city’s sustainability chief, told E&EThe news that the shift can be made anywhere, even in the Big Apple. “We’re big, we’re dense, we’re complicated, we have all four seasons. We’re putting a marker down, saying the next generation of buildings is going to be electric. We want to be a model for the world,” he said.
Nick Abraham is the League of Conservation Voters’ director of state communications. attributed the winIt took six years to organize. “Such an incredible story of dedication,” Abraham wrote on Twitter. “You can win on clean energy in rural communities.”
Kamal Kapadia is a researcher and co-founder for the online climate school. Terra.doAccording to him, the blueprint Nebraska provides is invaluable. “I have more hope and faith in local action, honestly. These things can have cascading effects.”
A Seismic Shift
Kapadia says that despite all this, the top ranks are undergoing change. Even just five years ago, it appeared that countries’ combined climate pledges were dooming us into projected warming of 4 or 5 degrees Celsius (4 or 5°C). Now, we’re in the range of 2 to 3.6°C. Many of these promises are are insufficient. Small island nations are calling for “1.5° to stay alive,” which world leaders are failing to act on. Kapadia said that the lower global warming target is still a seismic shift from what it was a few decades ago.
“If you look back in time, there is no one big movement that caused this to happen. This is literally the result of hundreds, thousands of movements and ‘small victories,’” she said.
Braun said some of the movement growth she’s witnessed is coming from unexpected places, which she anticipates more of in 2022. “I see courage and people who wouldn’t have fought [years ago] starting to stand up,” Braun said. “I see alliances made with ranchers and farmers and Native Americans and hippies and New Age people, and it doesn’t mean that we all agree. It just means that we’re standing up for what is really important.”