Cyclones, drought and 500-year floods
Climate, Health and Equity Brief

Cyclones, drought and 500-year floods

Photo credit: Max Ortiz/AP

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: Mother nature. Climate studies and massive storms combined to deliver a one-two punch this week, exposing our vulnerability to extreme weather in the face of climate change. In Michigan, an epic ‘500-year’ flood inundated multiple towns and threatened to flood the aging Dow chemical complex, which could have erased more than a decade of toxic cleanup downriver. And in India and Bangladesh, Cyclone Amphan forced nearly 3 million people to evacuate to crowded emergency shelters in communities already battling the spread of COVID-19.

Science continues to show that such storms are no anomaly. Researchers have predicted an “extremely active hurricane season” in the Atlantic region this year. A NOAA study projects that hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones will build in intensity by eight percent per decade due to warming sea surface temperatures. And findings presented in the journal Nature Climate Changes how that intense heatwaves, drought and ‘dust bowl’ events are on track to more than double in frequency in the years ahead.

From studies to storms, all evidence points to the fact that we need to drastically reduce our reliance on fossil fuels while simultaneously investing in climate-resilient infrastructure. Thankfully, there is some good news to be found on this front. The European Union has promised to make climate change the centerpiece of its post-pandemic development plans. Forty-two faith organizations from 14 countries committed this week to divest from fossil fuels. And Canada will require its largest companies to align with national climate goals to qualify for COVID-19 economic recovery aid. Decisions like these, if embraced globally, have the potential to secure a cleaner, safer and healthier future for all of us.

Matt & Traci, GMMB

Following record-breaking rainfall and the resulting failure of two dams in Michigan, floodwaters forced the evacuation of 11,000 people and threatened to inundate the Dow chemical complex and expose local waterways to toxic pollutants. (NBC News, The Washington Post)A new study revealed that warming sea surface temperatures are increasing the intensity of hurricanes, typhoons and tropical cyclones by 8 percent per decade. (CNN)Cyclone Amphan has displaced nearly 3 million residents in India and Bangladesh amid rising coronavirus infections. (CNN)A new report projects that severe heatwaves and drought will occur two and a half times more frequently than in previous centuries due to rising greenhouse gas emissions. (The Guardian)Equity
Lack of access to healthcare services and the sustained operation of polluting industrial sites in low-income and minority communities continue to contribute to disproportionate COVID-19 impacts in the U.S. (The New York Times)As the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) transitions to virtual public hearings, inconsistent internet access has left many Native Americans unable to voice concerns over proposed oil and gas projects on nearby public lands. (The Washington Post)

Politics & Economy
While the BLM drastically reduces royalty and lease payments for oil and gas companies during the coronavirus pandemic, solar and wind operators are receiving retroactive rent bills from the Interior Department. (The Washington Post, Reuters)

A recent survey found that 73 percent of Americans believe climate change is happening, with 62 percent acknowledging human activity as a major cause. (The New York Times)

Forty-two faith organizations across 14 countries have announced they will divest from fossil fuels following calls from the Vatican for the world to embrace a sustainable post-coronavirus future. (AP News)

Ahead of the UN’s anticipated adoption of the 30 by 30 framework next year, which aims to protect 30 percent of the planet from exploitation by 2030, the European Commission has pledged to raise $21 billion to fund the effort in the EU. (Los Angeles Times, The Guardian)

Canada will require its largest companies to publish annual climate impact reports and commit future operations to national climate goals to receive COVID-19 economic aid. (Yale Environment 360)

Bowing to pressure from employees and activists, Google has announced that it will no longer develop artificial intelligence or machine learning algorithms to enhance fossil fuel extraction abilities for the oil and gas industry. (OneZero)

Missing the great outdoors? Check out these breathtaking photos of spring around the world.

“We have forgotten how to be good guests, to walk lightly on the Earth as her other creatures do.
–    Barbara Ward