Climate, Health and Equity Brief
Amazon destruction, climate migration and European commitments
October 9, 2020
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: Tipping point. A stunning new study out this week revealed that 40 percent of the Amazon has reached a tipping point that could result in an irreversible shift from rainforest to savannah-like grassland. While scientists have long known that such a change was possible, it was thought to be decades away. Yet a number of forces have already set that change in motion, including unabated clearcutting for logging and farming and prolonged drought conditions and rising temperatures that have led to severe fires in recent months.
This change would destroy the natural habitat of a vast range of species and greatly diminish the Amazon’s role in absorbing carbon dioxide, which is vital to the health of our biosphere. What’s more, a recent analysis revealed that 13 major corporations that signed on to a 2010 initiative to eliminate their role in deforestation by 2020 are either far behind or no longer committed to achieving that goal.
Another major forecast by scientists this week warns that the number of climate-induced migrants within the U.S. will rapidly increase from the 2.1 million Americans forced from their homes between 2018 and 2019 due to increasingly severe, climate-induced weather events. Such events have only intensified this year, with total acres burned in California nearly equal to the land mass of Connecticut and Delaware combined.
Along the Gulf Coast, Texas and Louisiana are bracing for another life-threatening storm surge as Hurricane Delta approaches. When the storm makes landfall, it will be the 10th in the U.S. this season, setting a record for the most hurricanes to make landfall in the U.S. in one year.
In some welcome good news, major commitments out of Europe this week have set an example for leaders around the world. In a historic vote, the European Parliament has approved a legally binding target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent in 10 years, a 50 percent increase to its previous goal of 40 percent. And British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that he will invest more than $200 million to increase offshore wind capacity to 40 gigawatts by 2030. When completed, wind sources will produce enough energy to power all homes in the U.K.
—Matt & Traci, GMMB
A record four million acres have now burned in California, scorching more land in nine months than in the last three years combined as wildfires continue to rage on in the state. (Bloomberg)
Communities reeling from recent wildfires across the Western U.S. face additional health threats as scientists warn that toxins released by the fires could contaminate water systems and linger in pipes for years. (The New York Times)
The U.S. Gulf Coast is bracing for a life-threatening storm surge and destructive winds as Hurricane Delta prepares to make landfall in the same regions still recovering from Hurricane Laura. (CNN)
A new study revealed that 40 percent of the Amazon, a major carbon sink, could soon irreversibly shift from rainforest to savannah following severe fires and prolonged drought conditions. (The Guardian)
Flash flooding inundated northern Italy on Sunday after nearly 25 inches of rain fell in just 24 hours, leaving at least nine dead and destroying millions of dollars in homes and infrastructure. (Reuters)
Even after extreme weather events displaced more than 2.1 million Americansover the past two years, scientists warn that the number of climate migrants in the U.S. will continue to grow as the West and Gulf Coasts face increasingly severe weather. (Our Daily Planet)
A new study found a fundamental link between heat exposure and reduced learning, with low-income students and students of color in the U.S. disproportionately impacted due to a lack of access to air conditioning at school. (The New York Times)
Many low-income residents across California have been left to seek affordable housing in remote fire-risk zones after being priced out of the housing market in urban and suburban neighborhoods. (ProPublica)
Politics & Economy
A new analysis found that by 2025, oil and gas giant ExxonMobil plans to increase annual carbon emissions by 21 million tons, placing it at odds with global competitors pledging to decrease corporate emissions. (Bloomberg)
With just weeks left before the election, the American Petroleum Institute is launching ads in key battleground states promoting the oil and gas industry as a major driver for jobs and the economy. (Axios)
In yet another move to undermine climate science, the Trump Administration is delaying production of the mandatory National Climate Assessment by refusing to recruit scientists to work on it. (E&E News)
A recent analysis revealed that 13 corporations, including some of the world’s leading consumer goods companies, are failing at or no longer committed to eliminating deforestation from their supply chains despite a recently established high-profile initiative to do so. (Politico)
Democratic candidate Joe Biden became the first presidential nominee in history to release an ad focused exclusively on climate change this week, naming it a major threat to U.S. farming communities. (Grist)
The European Parliament has approved a legally binding target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent within the next ten years, updating the EU’s current goal of a 40 percent reduction by 2030. (Euractiv)
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged to invest more than $200 million to increase offshore wind capacity to 40 gigawatts by 2030—enough to power every home and generate 60,000 new jobs across the U.K. (CNBC)
JPMorgan Chase—currently considered the world’s biggest financier of fossil fuels—has pledged to work toward global net-zero emissions by 2050 by investing in carbon reduction technologies and corporate efforts to lower carbon emissions. (The Wall Street Journal)
Members of the Rockefeller family have established a new initiative that leverages their wealthy connections to pressure major U.S. banks to divest from fossil fuels. (Politico)
Want to help fight deforestation? Join the global effort to crowdsource artificial intelligence training in the Amazon by helping to identify signs of deforestation in satellite images
“What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.”
– Mahatma Gandhi