A preview of science events to watch out for in 2022
The way we do things has been changed due to many factors. In this article, we will take a look at some events we are expected to look out for as we go through our everyday lives.
The world enters the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic and clearly there is no end in sight. With the emergence of Omicron, – the fast spreading variant which was first spotted at the end of November 2021, there is a big task to better understand the impact and effects of the variant. Scientists across the globe are still finding out more about the disease and reviewing how vaccines can be effective.
In 2022, researchers, health practitioners and public-health authorities will continue to monitor the rise of new SARS-CoV-2 variants, and the long-term effects on people who have recovered from infections.
Some countries have begun giving their populations booster shots of existing vaccines, and these roll-outs are likely to continue amid concerns about Omicron. However, nearly half the world’s population has not yet received a single dose of a vaccine. A big question is whether pharmaceutical companies will waive patents or take other steps to help make their vaccines more affordable for lower-income countries, to begin filling the huge gap in global coverage.
UPGRADE OF VACCINES
Vaccine developers have set their sights on the next generation of vaccines designed to protect against the rapidly evolving coronavirus. 2022 could see the development of messenger RNA vaccines that are targeted to specific variants, and some public-health officials are hoping for an increased role for vaccines using other technologies. Protein-based vaccines are a more conventional kind of immunization — some have been used for decades against diseases including hepatitis and shingles — and in 2021 they have shown promise in phase III COVID–19 clinical trials. Vaccines based on DNA are cheaper to manufacture than mRNA vaccines and do not require cold storage, so could be good alternative for lower-income countries. Progress on vaccines is also expected for other major viruses and diseases, including HIV, malaria and Lyme disease.
Energized by this year’s COP26 summit in Glasgow, UK, delegates from around the world will converge on Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, in November 2022 for COP27, another round of United Nations climate talks. Countries are expected to come up with climate commitments consistent with the 2015 Paris agreement goal of limiting global warming to well below 2 ˚C above pre-industrial temperatures. In the meantime, researchers will be monitoring greenhouse-gas emissions following pledges made at COP26 — which included promises to reduce the use of coal and cut methane emissions. After a pandemic-induced dip in 2020, carbon emissions have rebounded in 2021.
Countries are working on a new set of targets to slow down the loss of biological diversity. The Aichi Biodiversity Targets, established in 2010, were mostly missed by their 2020 deadline. The next meeting of parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity — originally planned for 2020 — is scheduled to take place in Kunming, China, from 25 April to 8 May, but concern over the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 might scupper those plans yet again. Habitat loss and other factors linked to human activity have put an estimated one million plant and animal species at risk of extinction.
TO MARS AND THE STARS
Another epic space journey to watch will be the joint Russian–European ExoMars mission, which is scheduled to blast off in September and will carry the European Space Agency’s Rosalind Franklin rover to Mars, where it will search for signs of past life. The launch was originally scheduled for 2020, but was delayed partly because of issues with the parachutes needed to touch down safely.
China also plans to complete its space station, Tiangong, and has lined up more than 1,000 experiments for it, ranging from astronomical and Earth observation to the effects of microgravity and cosmic radiation on bacterial growth.