EPA, SEC and U.S. Courts Give Climate Action a Boost
Climate, Health and Equity Newsletter

EPA, SEC and U.S. Courts Give Climate Action a Boost

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: Federal action.  As the world remains fixated on the humanitarian and democratic crises in Ukraine, several U.S. federal actions either taken or proposed this week are quietly taking aim at the climate crisis.

First, the EPA is proposing a plan that would restrict power plants and other industrial sites from creating unhealthy smog for millions of Americans who live downwind. The so-called “good neighbor” rule is designed to cut ground-level ozone, which is exacerbated by increased temperatures and can cause respiratory problems, particularly among children, the elderly and those with compromised health. The rule—which would be fully implemented by 2026 if approved—aims to improve air quality and human health while also encouraging industrial sites to convert to clean, zero-emitting power.

Next, the SEC is expected to propose a groundbreaking new rule on Monday that will require all publicly traded companies to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions and the climate risks their businesses face. The move will represent the most significant change to corporate disclosure rules in more than a decade—and it reflects President Biden’s intention that the private sector account publicly for its contributions to the climate crisis.

Third, in a major win for the Biden administration, A federal appellate court ruled this week that the US government can once again factor the ‘social cost’ of greenhouse gas emissions into its regulatory decisions. President Obama set that cost at approximately $51 per ton of CO2 emissions, which the Trump administration then slashed to $1-$7 per ton to help its case for weakening climate change mandates. President Biden can now reinstate the cost to $51 per ton, which is a science-backed estimate of the economic cost of emitting each additional ton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The sum has been referred to by some scientists as “the most important number you’ve never heard of,” as it informs billions of dollars of investment decisions annually and is considered critical to informing effective climate policy.

Finally, a federal appeals court rejected ExxonMobil’s effort to stop two states from probing whether the company suppressed research going back to the 1970s and lied to investors and the public and about the effects of climate change.  Following the ruling, the investigation into the company’s climate disinformation can now proceed. Given the highly precarious state of the world today, we will take all the good news we can get.

 Programming note: The Brief will be on hiatus next week, returning to your inbox on April 1.

 —Matt & Traci, GMMB


Human Health

A new study revealed that rising global temperatures are exacerbating ideal growing conditions for pollen-producing plants and trees, threatening to lengthen annual allergy seasons by up to 40 days and intensify pollen concentrations by as much as 250 percent. (CNN)

A recent global analysis of more than 80,000 patients from 2016 to 2020 revealed that exposure to particulate matter from air pollution is linked to a nearly 12 percent increase in diagnoses for autoimmune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease. (The Guardian)

Scientists have sounded alarm that agricultural shortages already fueled by climate change and threatened by extreme weather—and now exacerbated by the war against Ukraine—could soon create a global food crisis. (E&E News)

Planetary Health

As severe drought continues to grip the Western US, officials warn that five million people from Arizona to Wyoming could soon lose a crucial source of hydropower electricity as water levels in Lake Powell fall to the lowest level in history. (AP News)

A new analysis warns that as climate change increases atmospheric temperatures and levels of humidity, hailstorms are growing more violent and frequent—even in regions in which conditions have historically limited the formation of hail. (BBC News)

The economically and ecologically significant beech forests across Europe are at risk due to increased drought severity, with current models predicting a 30-percent decline in growth between 2020 and 2050, and at a time when the carbon-sequestering capacity of forests is more vital than ever. (Science Daily

If we took away barriers to women’s leadership, we would solve the climate change problem a lot faster.”

 

– Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland

Equity

New data from the US Census Bureau revealed that Black Americans, Latinos and Indigenous Peoples were undercounted in the 2020 census by three, five and six percent, respectively—a result that threatens to divert funding for environmental justice projects and other services crucially needed by these populations. (Grist)

Politics & Economy

A newly proposed update to the Clean Air Act by the EPA will require states to ensure that industrial sites don’t add to downwind pollution, which can cause asthma, chronic bronchitis and other respiratory ailments in surrounding communities as well as those across state lines. (The Los Angeles Times)

As part of the Biden administration’s commitment to hold the private sector accountable for its contributions to climate change, the SEC is set to propose a new rule next week that would require all publicly traded companies to disclose their emissions as well as the climate risks they face. (The Washington Post)

A federal appeals court rejected ExxonMobil’s effort to prevent Massachusetts and New York from investigating whether or not the company deliberately misinformed investors and the public on its role in fueling the climate crisis. (Reuters)

In a major win based on a landmark federal appeals court ruling, the Biden Administration has regained its authority to factor in the societal cost of greenhouse gas emissions when approving potential oil and gas leases or setting emissions regulations. (CNN)

President Biden’s pick to serve as the Federal Reserve’s top Wall Street watchdog, Sarah Bloom Raskin, withdrew her name from consideration this week after Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced he would not vote to confirm her. (Politico)

Australia’s Federal Court unanimously overturned a ruling that would have required the country’s environment minister to consider the impact of emissions on children when approving new coal projects—a major blow to youth climate activists who pushed for the legislation. (CNN)

President Biden’s pick to serve as the Federal Reserve’s top Wall Street watchdog, Sarah Bloom Raskin, withdrew her name from consideration this week after Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced he would not vote to confirm her. (Politico)

Australia’s Federal Court unanimously overturned a ruling that would have required the country’s environment minister to consider the impact of emissions on children when approving new coal projects—a major blow to youth climate activists who pushed for the legislation. (CNN)

Life as We Know It

A new survey of 250,000 users of the prominent online dating app Ok Cupid revealed that climate change is the ultimate dating deal breaker, with 90 percent of respondents stating that it’s essential that their possible match cares about the climate crisis. (The Hill)

Action

Mumbai, India became the first city in South Asia to release a target for net-zero emissions by 2050, with commitments to change the way city manages energy, water and green spaces for its 19 million residents, among others. (Bloomberg)

Shipping and e-commerce giants including FedEx, Amazon, and UPS have announced plans to add more EVs to their fleet, with UPS being the latest company to announce the purchase of 10,000 new electric delivery vans. (Canary Media)

Kicker

In honor of Women’s History Month, check out this list of five black women taking local and global action against climate change to ensure a brighter, cleaner and healthier future for all.

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.

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