Climate, Health and Equity Brief
A call to action as warning signs mount
February 3, 2022
The Climate, Health & Equity Brief is GMMB’s take on the week’s news on the current impacts of climate change. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do so by clicking here.
Hot Topic: A warning. Twelve weeks to the day since the start of 2021’s climate summit in Glasgow, COP26 President Alok Sharma addressed the summit’s 197 participating countries this week, warning that the commitments made at COP—which he called a ‘fragile win’ for the world—risk ‘dying on the vine’ unless leaders rapidly turn rhetoric into action.
Sharma emphasized that meeting emissions reduction targets, ending the use of coal-fired power and halting deforestation are critical—as is the urgent need for the world’s richest countries to make good on their promise of $100 billion in annual climate aid to developing nations. Without it, the countries that contribute the least to climate change yet are the most vulnerable its impacts simply will not be able to sufficiently adapt to, or mitigate against, the devastating impacts of climate change.
And the consequences of inaction continue to take center stage. A first-in-the-nation study from the American Geophysical Union found that in addition to exacerbating extreme weather events, climate change will make it harder for meteorologists to make accurate forecasts. Currently, the extent of reliable weather prediction is around 10 days, but as planetary temperatures rise, that window will shrink significantly, giving people less time to prepare for events such as extreme floods, storms and heat waves in the years to come.
And the impacts of extreme weather are growing ever more complex. One new study found a clear correlation between exposure to extreme weather events and elevated levels of anxiety, and another found that prolonged power outages are linked to increased incidents of carbon monoxide poisoning due to generator use.
Despite these and many other factors, human inaction persists in the face of irrefutable evidence on the intensifying climate crisis. Clear-cutting in the Amazon to produce grazing land for cattle has reached a 15-year high and is crippling the forest’s ability to sequester carbon. Companies are still taking issue with the inconveniences posed by aggressive climate legislation. And island nations are being forced to take drastic action to protect entire populations from rising seas.
What will it take for humanity to heed the science, rise to the occasion, and make sacrifices necessary for the planet and its species to continue to flourish? Only time will tell—until that time runs out.
Matt & Traci, GMMB
A new survey of 850 British Columbia residents found a strong link between exposure to extreme weather events and increased levels of anxiety, with 40 percent of respondents “much more” worried about climate change following the region’s 2021 heat dome event. (Euronews)
A new study examining severe weather-related power outages in the U.S. between 2007 to 2018 found a dangerous link between these occurrences and increased emergency room visits for carbon monoxide poisoning. (Everyday Health)
Deforestation in the Amazon—currently at a 15-year high and fueled largely by Brazil’s beef industry—is pushing the rainforest to a tipping point at which the world’s largest carbon sink could soon emit more carbon than it absorbs. (Bloomberg)
“Unless we honor the promises made to turn the commitments in the Glasgow Climate Pact into action, they will wither on the vine.”
– COP26 President Alok Sharma
A new White House fact sheet highlighted the Biden administration’s environmental justice actions in year one, citing an ambitious regulatory agenda, historic investments in community resilience and the launch of the Justice40 initiative as major accomplishments. (The White House)
EPA Chief Michael S. Reagan announced that the agency will step up monitoring and enforcement of federal rules on air and water quality in disadvantaged communities, which are often disproportionately burdened by pollution. (The New York Times)
Politics & Economy
COP26 President Alok Sharma warned that progress made during last year’s summit is at risk unless countries make good—and fast—on their commitments to slash emissions, phase down coal, ramp up contributions to developing nations, and increase climate change adaptation measures. (BBC News)
As part of its continuing investigation into big oil’s role in downplaying the climate crisis, the House Oversight Committee has asked board members from Exxon, BP, Shell and Chevron to testify on whether their emissions reduction commitments align with the Paris climate accord goals. (The Washington Post)
An alliance of European airlines and airports requested modifications to the EU’s planned climate change legislation, arguing that the current provisions impede competitiveness with non-European rivals. (Reuters)
President Biden announced a partnership with 33 state and local governments to advance energy efficiency and electrification measures in an effort to reduce building emissions nationwide. (The Hill)
The Republic of Maldives is constructing an elevated artificial island to protect and house more than 550,000 residents spread across its 1,196 low-lying islands as rising sea levels put the nation at risk of being the first country on Earth to disappear. (National Geographic)
Life as We Know It
The first study on how climate could affect weather forecasting found that rising global temperatures will make weather more difficult to predict and reduce how far ahead meteorologists can forecast. (The Washington Post)
A new study found that Arabica coffee beans, the only beans used by many major coffee retailers including Starbucks, will be “drastically” less suitable for cultivation in current coffee-producing regions by 2050 because of the impacts of climate change. (CNN)
Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso announced a massive, 23,000 square-mile expansion of the Galapagos Marine Reserve in an effort to protect marine ecosystems and create a safe passage for migratory fish, sharks, and other marine species. (Grist)
Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, appointed the first chief heat officer on the African continent to improve local protection and preparedness for heat events and collect data on the impact of extreme heat on its 1.2 million residents. (Bloomberg)
The Clara Lionel Foundation, established by pop culture icon Rihanna, pledged $15 million in grants to 18 organizations—including the Climate Justice Alliance and the Indigenous Environmental Network—to address the disproportionate exposure of low-income communities of color to climate impacts. (AP News)
Looking for new places to visit in 2022? Check out The New York Times’ stunning review of 52 places around the world that are changing for the better by addressing climate change and other important causes.
The GMMB Climate, Health & Equity Brief would not be possible without the contributions of the larger GMMB California team—Aaron Benavides, Elke Cortes and Stefana Simonetto. Feedback on the Brief is welcome and encouraged and should be sent to CHandEBrief@gmmb.com.