Published 10 months ago.
About a 6 minute read.
From my perspective as a scientist who’s been working on climate change and environmental resilience since before the crisis made front-page headlines, here are the four biggest trends I foresee defining 2023.
Despite the headwinds encountered globally, we ended 2022 with reason for
The year saw marked progress for climate and
and a global vibe shift to prioritize the health of our
We are in the midst of a major transformation evidenced by the way humans
interact with one another, the activism of a new generation, how business is
conducted, consumer expectations of companies they support, and overarching
In the early days of the new year, we have the unique opportunity to set the
tone for what 2023 — a year that is certain to be crucial in determining the
severity of the climate crisis — will look like for the planet.
From my perspective as a scientist who’s been working on climate change and
environmental resilience since before the crisis made front-page headlines, here
are the four biggest trends I foresee defining 2023:
Climate change is happening, leaving millions of people to suffer the
and putting biodiversity at even higher risk. Many people are left feeling
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But instead of paralysis and anxiety, 2023 will see an increase in activism. The
past years have proven that large institutions like the UN will not solve
the challenges we face today. The glacial pace that it takes to obtain global
agreement to pledges and climate treaties — and then actionizing them — is
ill-suited to the solutions we need today. This general realization is driving
new activism: We see that it’s up to us to create the change needed.
This year, climate activism will take many forms:
Direct action: Actions such as activists throwing cans of soup on major
will continue or increase because many people, vulnerable to climate change
and feeling ignored, want to catalyze real action.
Consumer activism: Individuals will increase their meaningful
to reflect their environmental values. The general public is realizing that
investing in the planet is an investment in themselves and their children.
This trend will increase the heat on financial institutions and
Shareholder activism: We saw this emerge in 2022 in the boardrooms of
oil companies, with shareholders using their equity
to put pressure on company decisions around climate change. This will grow
in 2023: Money speaks.
Scientific activism: For decades now, scientists have been publishing
peer-reviewed reports and publications alerting politicians and the public
to the consequences of climate change — consequences that are now happening.
More of them are speaking up publicly and pressing for action.
Career choice activism: In the late part of 2022, I met several young
people who had changed jobs specifically to pursue positions where they feel
they can act directly to influence climate
and the environment. We’ll see more of this in 2023.
These climate trends are starting to forge new communities united by shared
planetary values and compelled to act. Now is the time that CEOs, corporations,
boards and politicians who have fiduciary and moral obligations should be paying
attention and getting ahead of these trends with stronger and meaningful ESG and
Artificial intelligence (AI) has evolved rapidly, becoming increasingly
sophisticated and capable of solving ever-more complex problems at a rapid pace.
AI is transforming science, speeding up the rate of data collection and
analysis. In 2023, the use of AI will accelerate and become more critical to
climate change and biodiversity decisions.
Scientists use isotopes to track how water moves through the hydrological
cycle — flowing between oceans, skies, land and rivers — and studying how
climate change is altering these patterns. The analysis has often been a
complex and slow process. Now using AI, scientists can quickly analyze and
interpret the vast amounts of data that already exist in global
With Ocean-Shot, the coral
reef restoration project I launched last year off the coast of Antigua
and Barbuda, we’ve placed AI cameras on the ocean floor to monitor reef
and ecosystem biodiversity patterns, and reef recovery. These data will
drive our decisions on the next reef restoration effort.
In the coming year, AI will help speed up data interpretation, predictions and
decisions. For instance, adaptive management — a type of “learning by doing” —
has become the hallmark of ecosystem assessment and endangered species
management, typically relying on slower long-term data gathering, models and
assessments by scientists. AI can potentially fast-track this process and
identify problems early on, before it's too late to make adjustments.
The importance of nature and healthy ecosystems for combating climate change,
sustaining biodiversity, and supporting our own survival is finally being
realized at every level. The US government announced in 2022 that it would
start to incorporate the value of intact ecosystems into US economic indicators.
This trend will expand and amplify in 2023, with investments being prioritized
in the public and private sectors.
Nature itself provides the tools to fight climate change — it has the potential
to sequester 30 percent of the carbon we produce. Governments and developers are
— and must increasingly — invest in and utilize these nature-based solutions
moving forward. Here’s what that can look like in action:
Restoring and protecting wetlands, maritime forests and coral
can help to significantly mitigate coastal flooding and
while protecting lives and property from sea level rise.
City green spaces and tree-lined
aid in absorbing carbon emissions, reducing the effects of urban heat
For coastal cities, transforming concrete barriers into bioswales — like
this recent Queens, New
project — and protecting wetlands help to better manage water runoff and
stormwater drainage, while simultaneously providing cooling shade for
residents during heat waves.
Globally, we depend on a reliable supply of energy to fuel our cars, power our
and energize our coffee machines. The war in Ukraine was an eye opener for
many of us that, despite our many investments into renewable energy sources, we
have minimal options for reliable energy sources that are not based on fossil
The good news is that these global geopolitical events are catalyzing investment
in alternative energy
In 2023, we will see more investment — but money is no longer so “cheap,” and
financing will also come with a greater emphasis on return on investment that
will favor certain startups and technologies. This will lead first to a greater
number of startups, but then more consolidation and faster scaling of those
companies and technologies that emerge as
Some fear that carbon-capture technology will remove the impetus to reduce
fossil fuel usage and become a corporate greenwashing tactic. The fear is not
misplaced; however, when it comes to the climate crisis, this is an “all hands
on deck” moment. Technology is not the sole answer — it’s part of a series of solutions
that must also involve emissions reduction and widespread renewable energy
Published Jan 6, 2023 1pm EST / 10am PST / 6pm GMT / 7pm CET
Dr. Deborah Brosnan is a globally recognized marine scientist, environmental entrepreneur and climate-risk expert. She works worldwide to create innovative solutions to environmental and climate risks that support ecosystems, business, communities and governments. In addition to her international work, she has a strong interest in advancing the needs of Small Island Developing States, having worked in the Caribbean for over 25 years. (Read more ...)