Climate, Health and Equity Brief
At a crossroads to a livable future
April 21, 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: Marching orders. In its latest report issued this week, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that while we are “firmly on track to an unlivable world,” we have the tools to tackle climate change at our disposal–with our greatest roadblock being political will.
By now you’ve likely heard the IPCC’s warning: We must slash emissions by 43% within the next 8 years to have any chance of limiting planetary warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F) and avoiding the worst impacts of climate change. The good news is that we can achieve this with tools either already available or in rapid development—though time is running out.
First, we must halt development of new fossil fuel infrastructure and triple the speed of our transition to renewables, which can be facilitated by falling prices for clean technologies. We must also fast-track the shift to electric vehicles, which could cut transport-related pollution by 90%. We must reimagine efficiency when designing and operating buildings—which account for nearly 20% of global emissions. And we must redesign cities—where 70% of the global population is expected to live by 2050—to avoid sprawl, add more green spaces, and better facilitate public transport, walking and biking.
We must also give nature an assist by drastically reducing deforestation, restoring coastal ecosystems, and improving the management of working lands, like farms and ranches. Collectively, wealthy nations must finally make good on their commitments of $100 billion in annual financing to support developing nation clean-energy transitions. Carbon removal technologies are also considered essential to achieving climate targets, and these and dozens of other nascent climate innovations must be funded, developed and rapidly scaled. And as individuals, we can make a difference in our own daily lives by adopting cleaner transportation habits, switching to plant-based diets, reducing all forms of waste, and voting for leaders who will prioritize climate action.
Critical to all of this, according to the IPCC, is that each of these approaches must be undertaken collectively, as no single strategy alone can mitigate the climate crisis. Unfortunately, political will for taking the steps necessary to achieving emissions targets remains questionable at best, with no single country having sufficient short-term policies in place to put itself on track to its net-zero target.
While this may sound daunting, the IPCC is clear that if countries step up to the plate, we can pull off a come-from-behind win for our planet. As for how much planetary and human destruction will be necessary for leaders acting in the interests of the fossil fuel industry to change course, only time will tell.
— Matt & Traci, GMMB
Politics & Economy
Despite its revelation that planetary temperature rise is currently on track to exceed the Paris Agreement target of a temperature rise of below 2°C, the IPCC’s latest report found that the world can achieve sharp emissions reductions and avoid climate catastrophe with existing technologies. (AP News)
A new analysis from the White House Office of Management and Budget revealed that without urgent emissions reductions, climate-fueled weather extremes like floods, droughts and wildfires could cost the U.S. $2 trillion each year by the end of the century. (CNBC)
The Supreme Court issued a controversial ruling this week reviving a Trump-era regulation that restricts each state’s ability to enforce the Clean Water Act or oppose large-scale energy projects that pose environmental harm. (The New York Times, Reuters)
In much better SCOTUS news, major environmental groups are among the many constituencies celebrating the historic confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, citing her appointment as a major win for climate mitigation and environmental justice at a time when the Court is set to take on cases determining the limits of environmental regulation. (Politico)
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration revealed that in 2021, methane emissions—which have more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide in the short term—grew by 17 parts per billion compared to the year before, marking the largest annual increase ever recorded. (The Washington Post)
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced it will increase fuel efficiency standards by 8% for 2024 and 2025 model-year vehicles and by 10% for model-year 2026, a decision that is expected to reduce consumer fuel costs by $192 billion by 2030. (Reuters)
Arizona farmers have been forced to cut their water supplies from the Colorado River for the first time due to intensifying drought and falling reservoir levels, disrupting the state’s $23 billion agriculture industry and increasing food prices for consumers throughout the country. (CNBC)
A new World Health Organization report revealed that 99% of the world’s population breathes air that exceeds WHO standards for air quality and named fossil fuel use as the primary culprit for putting nearly all of humanity at greater risk of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. (AP News)
Scientists warn that Valley Fever—a fungal infection transmitted in dust and traditionally confined to the arid Southwest—could become a threat across the entire western U.S. by 2050 due to cycles of extreme precipitation and worsening drought, heat and wildfires. (Los Angeles Times)
A recent investigation found that the number of extreme weather-related power outages—which are harmful and even deadly for the elderly, disabled and other vulnerable communities—has doubled in the U.S. since the early 2000s, with an average duration of eight hours. (AP News)
It is a file of shame, cataloging the empty pledges that put us firmly on track toward an unlivable world.”
– U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres
With California on track to enter its third year of drought and more than 40 percent of California currently facing a major dry spell, officials warn that conditions are once again primed for an extreme wildfire season. (The Sacramento Bee)
The American West is in danger as two new studies predict a “brutal century” ahead with destructive wildfires, pollution, and extreme weather becoming the new norm for the region’s 79 million residents. (USA Today, The Sacramento Bee)
The Donors of Color Network announced it will commit at least $100 million annually to minority groups disproportionately exposed to extreme weather and that 10 of the nation’s largest climate funders have signed its pledge to direct at least 30% of donations to groups led by people of color. (AP News)
Life as We Know It
Gallup’s annual environmental survey found that one in three Americans have been impacted by extreme weather in the past two years and that 78% of those affected believe that the consequences of climate change are already unfolding. (CNN)
The Biden Administration announced a $500 million grant program to help public schools become more energy efficient through a transition to climate-friendly lighting, insulation and HVAC systems, among other upgrades. (The Hill)
Social media giant Pinterest announced it will prohibit ads and posts that contain climate misinformation, including those that question the existence or impacts of climate change or deny that it is supported by scientific consensus. (The New York Times)
Looking for ways to assess and minimize your carbon footprint, particularly in light of the IPCC report? Check out Conservation International’s carbon footprint calculator.
The GMMB Climate, Health & Equity Brief would not be possible without the contributions of the larger GMMB California team—Aaron Benavides, Elke Cortes, Sharde Olabanji, Adrian Plaisance and Stefana Simonetto. Feedback on the Brief is welcome and encouraged and should be sent to CHandEBrief@gmmb.com.