Climate, Health and Equity Brief
Doomsday glacier, species loss and corporate greed
March 6, 2023
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: Doomsday scenarios. New studies this week present a sobering picture of planetary emissions and the havoc they are wreaking on our natural systems. First, a study from the International Energy Agency (IEA) found that the fossil fuel industry is failing to tackle methane emissions despite its pledges to uncover and fix leaking infrastructure. The report noted that fossil fuel companies could reduce these emissions by 75% using existing technologies—and with less than 3% of their $4 trillion in investment profits from last year alone—yet have failed to take necessary action.
Next, two new studies found that global heating is weakening the Antarctic’s ‘doomsday glacier’ and its eventual breakup could raise sea levels by more than two feet, enough to submerge parts of coastal cities worldwide. What’s more, if the ice surrounding the glacier also disintegrates, it could raise sea levels by another 10 feet, devastating U.S. coastal cities like New York, New Orleans and Miami, not to mention the global impact.
In yet another study, researchers found that the current rate of species loss is faster than during any of the previous five mass extinctions on Earth. Many scientists believe that current biodiversity losses mark the acceleration of a new mass extinction, and that total ecosystem collapse is “inevitable” if the losses are not reversed.
In the face of growing evidence of the compounding effects of climate change, experts are increasingly considering the need for new and novel bioengineering projects. In just one example, a new report from the UN suggests that emergency, temporary Solar Radiation Modification (SRM) measures, which reflect solar sunlight away from earth and back to space, may become necessary if resistance to reducing emissions holds strong.
SRM and other measures, however, pose risks, are in nascent stages, and cannot alone replace emissions reductions, which are essential to slowing the climate crisis. That means that the corporations that have long benefited from polluting and heating the planet—and the governments that regulate them—must act immediately to draw down fossil fuel use, the one solution already at hand that can preserve our planet’s future.
— Matt and Traci
A new study finds that climate change has already increased the risk of nearly 60% of tick- and mosquito-borne diseases and food- and water-borne infections, and the risks will only grow as summers get longer and warmer, winters get shorter and milder, and weather events worldwide get more extreme and unpredictable. (Yale Climate Connections)
Two studies warn that unrelenting warming is weakening the structural integrity of the Antarctic’s “doomsday glacier,” with scientists estimating that its disintegration could raise sea levels by more than two feet—enough to submerge parts of coastal cities worldwide. (Fast Company)
New research concludes that Earth is currently losing species at a faster rate than in previous extinction events and warns that plummeting biodiversity may be a harbinger of ecosystem collapse. (The Guardian)
A new UN report called for the study of solar geoengineering technologies, which reflect sunlight away from the Earth, given that current greenhouse gas emission projections indicate the world is not on track to meet the 1.5°C Paris Agreement goal. (CNBC)
A new analysis of the impact of Atlantic tropical cyclones on nine coastal communities suggests that climate change is making hurricanes both more dangerous and more likely to hit the same site twice. (The Hill)
A new report estimates that the cost of rebuilding the flood-ravaged homes in Eastern Kentucky will cost between $450 and $950 million, depending on the extent of efforts to relocate destroyed homes and improve structural foundations. (Grist)
A new U.S. Senate report identified 89 weather or climate-related events from 2017 to 2022 that caused life-threatening power outages at nursing homes and long-term care facilities. (USA Today)
Politics & Economy
A new report found that 75% of methane emissions from oil and gas alone be reduced with existing technologies and a modest investment of less than 3% of the $4 trillion windfall income gained by oil and gas companies worldwide last year. (Reuters)
A new study revealed that American home prices are overvalued by $121 to $237 billion due to incomplete flood risk calculations based on outdated flood maps and disclosure laws that do not reflect the true dangers resulting from climate change. (Axios)
After the Net-Zero Banking Alliance decided against imposing restrictions on fossil-fuel financing as a concession to banks like JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Bank of America, a number of climate-conscious financial lenders are threatening to leave the alliance unless stricter rules are set in place for membership. (Bloomberg)
Thanks to aggressive public and private investments in anticipation of future EV use, the U.S. currently has a greater capacity to recycle electric-vehicle batteries than it has batteries to recycle, leaving the EV battery recycling industry economically unstable but well prepared. (Bloomberg News)
A new study on American beliefs and attitudes about climate change covers a range of topics, including perceived risks and impacts, mental health, personal and social engagement, and fatalism. (Yale Climate Connections)
Life as We Know It
The future of Tequila is uncertain as weather whiplash disrupts the fragile life cycle of Mexico’s blue agave plant—the spirit’s primary ingredient—and rising temperatures push the bats that pollinate agave out of the regions where it grows. (CNN)
Cotton farmers are facing record crop losses amid severe megadroughts and extreme heat, resulting in inflated costs for necessary cotton products like gauze, tampons and cloth diapers for consumers globally. (The New York Times)
United Airlines, Air Canada, Boeing, GE Aerospace, JP Morgan Chase and Honeywell launched a $100 million investment fund to promote growth in the production of sustainable aviation fuel, which can be derived from by-products like restaurant cooking oils and municipal solid waste yet currently accounts for just 0.1% of global jet fuel demand. (Canary Media)
Black women across generations are on the frontlines fighting for environmental justice, from 24-year-olds Wanjiku Gatheru and Arielle King leading Black Girl Environmentalist, an organization to inspire climate action, to 70-year-old Sharon Lavigne leading the fight against plastics in Cancer Alley. (Axios and Inside Climate News)
REI announced new product standards that will require its suppliers to eliminate PFAS–harmful, human-made chemicals that don’t break down naturally–from all clothing and cookware by 2024. (Grist)
Washington State held its first auction of emission “allowances” as part of its new cap-and-invest program, which requires businesses to buy allowances for their emissions, which the state then invests in clean energy. (The Washington Post)
Check out Fast Company’s list of the top ten most innovative companies in energy and sustainability working to confront the climate crisis with innovation, data and funding.
Emissions are still far too high and not falling fast enough…there is just no excuse.”
– IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol
The GMMB Climate, Health & Equity Brief would not be possible without the contributions of the larger GMMB team— Aaron Benavides, Thomas Baer, Stefana Hendronetto, Sharde Olabanji and Quincy Tichenor. Feedback on the Brief is welcome and encouraged and should be sent to CHandEBrief@gmmb.com.