Foretelling for 2023
Combat Climate Change Today
Save Our Happy Place is a climate action newsletter dedicated to making it easy for you to help protect the places you love from climate change, written by Lindsay Nunez. Read on for simple yet effective climate actions, and sustainable + eco-friendly lifestyle tips.
Happy New Year Sunshine! I hope 2023 has treated you well thus far and you had the opportunity to rest, recuperate and have a little fun over the holidays. Instead of getting swept away in the ambition, pressure, and subsequent disappointment of setting resolutions, let’s take a moment to look forward to what 2023 may bring. This week we're being joined by Gabriela Angueira, Avery Nunn, & Claire Thompson of Grist/Fix to share with us predictions for the climate movement in 2023. There are truly so many reasons to be hopeful and optimistic about the progress that will be made in the coming year.
23 Predictions of 2023
We asked climate and environmental justice experts to share their forecasts for the coming year.
We took a look back at some of the biggest climate stories from the past year and asked 23 experts to forecast what 2023 holds in a few key areas: water, ecosystems, politics and policy, mitigation and adaptation, technology, and business. Their predictions provide a glimpse of what progress could look like in the months ahead, and a rubric for measuring success.
🔮 A critical juncture for water security
Almost 47 percent of the U.S. including Puerto Rico remain parched by the worst drought in 1,200 years, a crisis impacting 196 million people. It is particularly acute in the seven western states that rely on the Colorado River for much of their water. The region’s continued growth and the drier, hotter conditions of a warming world have so imperiled the river that lakes Mead and Powell — two of the nation’s largest reservoirs — reached record lows in 2022. Federal officials have told those states to reduce water usage by as much as 4 million acre-feet per year, or face mandatory cutbacks. The steps they take in 2023 could radically shape the lives of more than 40 million people throughout the west, impact 5 million acres of agricultural land, and influence water policy nationwide.
Western states must find common ground in managing the Colorado River
-Sarah Porter, director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University
Nature-based solutions and Indigenous input will make 2023 a turning point
- Felicia Marcus, attorney, founding member of Water Policy Group, and visiting fellow at Stanford University’s Water in the West program
Data-driven technology will shape how we use water
- Newsha Ajami, hydrologist and chief development officer for research at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Earth and Environmental Sciences Area
🔮 The next wave of conservation
Marine, forest, and wetland ecosystems sequester vast quantities of carbon dioxide and provide an essential defense against the impacts of climate change. In 2022, the Inflation Reduction Act marked a major recognition of the government’s role in protecting and managing these imperiled spaces. It allocates roughly $22 billion to, among other things, conserve wetlands, restore coastal habitats, preserve old-growth forests, and reduce fire risks for communities in forested regions.
Much of the IRA is focused on technological solutions to the climate crisis. But the legislation, along with other funding streams and programs, also recognizes an essential truth: Nature is a profound ally in the fight against climate change, and by saving it, we save ourselves.
2023 will bring more environmental threats — and more money for solutions.
-Tarik Benmarhnia, environmental epidemiologist at Scripps Institute of Oceanography
Wetlands (finally) get the attention they deserve
-Eric W. Sanderson, senior ecologist at Wildlife Conservation Society
Reforestation will uplift frontline communities
-Michael French, forester and director of operations at Green Forests Work
Politics & Policy
🔮 Political momentum for climate and climate justice
Climate policy got off to a rough start in 2022. By July, President Biden’s plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions was faltering, and the Supreme Court had limited the government’s ability to regulate that pollution. Yet political will to address the crisis proved remarkably resilient. The Inflation Reduction Act squeezed through Congress. The predicted “red wave” in the midterm elections didn’t materialize, and eco-friendly governors and state legislators won key races, with roughly half of all voters calling climate change a top concern in one pre-election poll.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration has delivered some wins for environmental justice, with initiatives like a new EPA office dedicated to that goal and a promise to allocate at least 40 percent of federal climate investments to historically disadvantaged communities.
The coming year will show whether action can match up to promises. Congress and the courts could stymie further progress, or even throw a lasso around gains already made. And the Inflation Reduction Act, a historic victory for climate mobilization, will present challenges — as well as opportunities — in its implementation.
A new EPA office could mean additional protections for vulnerable communities
- Catherine Coleman Flowers, founder of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice; vice chair of the White House EJ Advisory Council
The midterm results will drive progress at the state and local levels
- Leah Stokes, political scientist and professor of environmental politics at the University of California, Santa Barbara
Bipartisanship and pragmatism will shape climate policies
- Quill Robinson, vice president of governmental affairs at American Conservation Coalition
Activists will pressure the U.S. to ‘walk the talk’ after COP27
- Adrien Salazar, policy director at Grassroots Global Justice Alliance
SCOTUS will complicate, but not thwart, national EJ initiatives
- Emily Hammond, energy and environmental law professor at George Washington University Law School
Mitigation & Adaptation
🔮 Reactions to a year of climate disasters
Climate change has, for years, been making fires bigger, heat waves hotter, and hurricanes stronger. But even by that measure, 2022 was extreme.
Appalachia and the region around Yellowstone National Park saw record-breaking floods. More than 104 million people nationwide suffered from dangerous heat on a single day in July alone. Nearly 70,000 wildfires scorched over 7 million acres, predominantly in the American West — the largest number of fires in the past decade. Hurricanes Fiona and Ian barreled into Puerto Rico and Florida, killing at least 150 people and causing billions in damage.
Such events were, in the words of one expert we spoke to, an eye-opener for many — but shouldn’t have been. Ninety percent of U.S. counties have experienced a weather disaster of some kind in the past decade. In 2023, the ways in which we address, prepare for, and respond to such extreme weather events will not only impact our climate future, but will shape our very existence on earth.
People will hold governments accountable
- Njoki Mwarumba, assistant professor of emergency management and disaster preparedness at the University of Nebraska
Communities will drive a bottom-up transformation in renewables
- Arturo Massol-Deyá, executive director of Casa Pueblo
We need to be open to the possibility of relocation
- Auroop R. Ganguly, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Northeastern University
We must make bold moves towards resilience
- Maxwell Alejandro Frost, representative-elect for Florida’s 10th congressional district and the first member of Gen Z elected to Congress
🔮 New voices and spending in clean energy
The windfall provided by the Inflation Reduction Act is designed to encourage more institutions and individuals to participate in the transition to clean energy. It should help car manufacturers establish a domestic electric vehicle supply chain, and make it easier for families to buy EVs — accelerating an already growing market for EVs. It will offer tax credits for solar and offshore wind projects, and incentives to help households electrify their appliances. In 2023, the impact of these new funds will start to become clear. But without circular pathways for the materials needed to ensure widespread electrification, these technologies won’t go far in mitigating our climate impact.
The IRA will supercharge a circular, domestic EV supply chain
- Alexis Georgeson, vice president of government relations and communications at Redwood Materials
Tribes will lead the next phase of the EV transition
- Robert Blake, executive director of Native Sun Community Power Development
American homes will electrify faster than ever
- Sam Calisch, head of special projects at Rewiring America
The mining required for clean energy will create new EJ battles
- Jade Begay, climate justice campaign director at NDN Collective
🔮 Business models that prioritize sustainability
In a capitalistic economy, profitability and sustainability often seem at odds. But when a billion-dollar company decides to give away all its profits, or a venture-capital firm invests millions in circular businesses, it begins to feel like that might finally be changing.
This year, retail businesses explored ways of generating revenue without extracting new resources, a key principle of a circular economy. Investors demanded more meaningful signs of good ESG, ones that went beyond how well companies protected themselves from climate risk to examine their own impact on climate and communities. Such practices have, in the past, been relegated to companies and investors known to prioritize sustainability, but others are now showing that there is money to be made in sustainable, circular, and equitable businesses.
As 2022 ends with some of the biggest Wall Street firms backpedaling on their climate commitments, 2023 is poised to demonstrate whether there is building momentum, as well as consumer demand, for change.
Underrepresented founders will get the funding they deserve
- Destana Herring, associate at Regeneration.VC
Brands will find new ways to generate revenue from their used products
- Nellie Cohen, director of circular business models at sustainability consultancy Anthesis
Investors will zoom in on climate and impact
- Alyssa Stankiewicz, associate director of sustainability research at Morningstar
Companies will need to show they are taking the climate crisis seriously
- Corley Kenna, head of communications and policy at Patagonia