Climate, Health and Equity Brief
Devastating impacts call for a more resilient future
October 11, 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: Building resilience. Hurricane Ian is tied for 5th strongest storm ever to hit the contiguous United States. It’s one of the deadliest storms in Florida’s history, it has claimed at least 115 lives, and its costs are projected to soar past $60 billion. Thousands of people remain displaced, the clean-up alone is projected to take months, and questions of how—and even whether—to rebuild devastated coastal communities in the face of climate change have become the subject of debate.
On his visit to survey damages in Florida, President Biden declared that events like Hurricane Ian have “put an end” to the question of whether climate change exists as Florida Governor and GOP presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis looked on. DeSantis—whose residents now require hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid—signed legislation last year that bans Florida cities and towns from adopting 100 percent clean energy goals, reasoning that those goals “discriminate” against fossil fuels—the very cause of the climate crisis.
President Biden also visited Puerto Rico this week to survey damage in the wake of last month’s Hurricane Fiona, which killed 25 people and wiped out all power to the island. He underscored the importance of rebuilding with a focus on resilience to future disasters—and promised that the island would see “every dollar” of the federal government’s pledge of $60 million to aid recovery.
How should America rebuild in the wake of such massive destruction? One small Florida town may hold the key. Enter Babcock Ranch, a town of 5,000 just 12 miles northeast of hard-hit Fort Myers. Established in 2018, it is America’s first 100% solar-powered town. It is surrounded by preserved land, all power lines to homes run underground for protection from high winds, and its streets are specifically designed to absorb floodwaters. And so far, it’s working—the town sustained zero power outages, flooding, or major structural damage from Hurricane Ian.
—Matt & Traci, GMMB
Hurricane Ian is confirmed to have killed at least 115 people ranging in age from 19 to 96 across 15 counties in Florida, with causes of death including drowning, head trauma, heart attack, suffocation due to loss of power to oxygen machines, and post-storm suicide—with more expected fatalities still to be confirmed. (Miami Herald)
The Nord Stream pipelines—which run under the Baltic Sea to deliver natural gas from Russia to Germany—are strongly suspected of being deliberately sabotaged, resulting in multiple leaks that emitted up to 400,000 tons of methane in what is estimated to be the largest single methane release ever. (NPR, The New York Times)
Hurricane Ian is providing key climate lessons that show how warming temperatures can make winds stronger, clouds denser, storm surges more extreme and hurricanes much wetter and slower, compounding threats to result in life-threatening conditions for coastal communities around the globe. (Inside Climate News)
Men argue. Nature acts.” – Voltaire
Climate disasters like Hurricane Ian are increasing racial and wealth inequality, with insurance claims and FEMA aid disproportionately helping wealthier, whiter communities while leaving nonwhite communities at greater risk of foreclosure. (NBC News)
Indigenous Alaskan coastal communities are losing their generations-old harvest practices as warmer temperatures and power outages wipe out their traditional cold storage methods, placing their winter harvests at risk. (The New York Times)
A new study reveals how wealthier homebuyers and developers in Florida are pushing low-income communities out of areas less vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and provides a new Climate Gentrification Risk Index to help policymakers recognize and respond to climate gentrification. (E&E News)
Politics & Economy
The Federal Reserve is enlisting six major U.S. banks to pilot its climate risk analysis program, which will help the Fed better identify and assess the financial risks related to natural disasters and climate change. (CIO)
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments this week in Sackett v. EPA, a case that could limit the Clean Water Act of 1972 and undermine federal protections for up to half of wetlands and 60% of streams in the United States. (The Washington Post)
In its latest outlook, the International Monetary Fund estimates that implementing policies to transition to low-carbon technologies by the end of the decade would increase inflation in most regions by just 0.1-0.4%—a figure that would be “dwarfed” by the long-term costs of inaction. (The Guardian)
The State Department has announced Monica Medina as the U.S. government’s first-ever Special Envoy for Biodiversity and Water Resources, tasked with addressing increasing water insecurity and the loss of animal and plant species worldwide due in part to climate change. (NPR)
King Charles III—a long-time environmental advocate—will no longer attend and deliver a speech at the UN COP27 conference next month on the advice of Prime Minister Liz Truss, whose policies ramping up fracking and fossil fuel production in Britain have been widely criticized. (The Guardian)
Life as We Know It
Nearly all major metro areas in the United States with increasingly inhospitable conditions and natural disaster risks are also the fastest growing, indicating that many Americans are either not aware of—or are willing to manage—the risks they face when moving to places with lower costs of living and warmer winters. (The Washington Post, Axios)
A BBC-spinoff Netflix show that debuted in 2021—Octonauts: Above and Beyond—is one of the first shows geared toward young children that is attempting the delicate balance of educating children about our changing world and climate without frightening them with the consequences. (The New York Times)
12 miles northeast of Hurricane Ian-razed Fort Myers, Florida, Babcock Ranch—America’s first 100% solar-powered town—survived the hurricane without losing water, electricity, or internet. (CNN)
The U.S. Air Force, the largest greenhouse gas emitter in the Defense Department, announced plans to operate all bases at net-zero emissions by 2046 by investing in base infrastructure and sustainable aviation fuel. (NBC News)
Rental car giant Hertz announced a new partnership with EV fleet charging operator BP Pulse to develop a national network of EV-charging stations in the company’s airport rental lots and its city-center locations. (Canary Media)
Grappling with the stress of climate change and its impacts? Check out NPR’s list of four ways you can tackle your feelings and take action
The GMMB Climate, Health & Equity Brief would not be possible without the contributions of the larger GMMB California team—Aaron Benavides, Thomas Baer, Quincy Tichenor, Sharde Olabanji and Stefana Simonetto. Feedback on the Brief is welcome and encouraged and should be sent to CHandEBrief@gmmb.com.