Climate, Health and Equity Brief
Famine, superstorms and a scientist rebellion
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: No relief. A devastating drought has intensified this week in Somalia, where three years of failed rainy seasons have brought the country to its knees. The drought has impacted an estimated 4.5 million people, with more than 700,000 forced to leave their homes in search of food, water and shelter as crops fail, rivers run dry, and livestock die in droves of hunger and thirst. Scientists warn that the dire situation is a sign of things to come for the entire continent, with climate impacts threatening to displace half the population of Africa—700 million people—by 2030, according to the IPCC.
On the flipside of deadly drought, two new studies show just how much more powerful hurricanes have become in recent years as global temperatures intensify. One study examining 2020 Atlantic hurricanes found that the season’s 30 named storms—the most ever recorded—dumped up to 11% more rain than average once reaching landfall. Yet another study based on the record number of tropical storms that pummeled Madagascar, Malawi and Mozambique earlier this year found that climate change is increasing extreme rainfall during cyclones, making storms more damaging and deadly in a region already beset by poor infrastructure.
It is important to note that these devastating impacts are the result of global temperatures currently at just 1.1°C (1.9°F) above pre-industrial levels. Yet the IPCC warns that without immediate action to reduce emissions, global temperatures could reach or exceed a 1.5°C increase within a decade. That frightening proposition—along with the inaction of many banks, corporations and world leaders—is what led more than a thousand scientists in 25 countries to protest last week, blocking traffic on major freeways and chaining themselves to banks and government buildings to call attention to the severity of the climate emergency.
Unfortunately, while scientists continue to ring alarm bells and populations of entire countries that bear virtually no responsibility for the climate crisis continue to suffer in massive numbers, many leaders remain unwilling to act. A new Gallup poll shows that a strong majority of Americans favor policy interventions to limit emissions, from tax credits and incentives for clean energy installation to higher fuel efficiency standards and more electric vehicle infrastructure. How long will it be until public outcry reaches a point where our leaders have no choice but do the right thing?
—Matt & Traci, GMMB
As Somalia faces its worst drought in decades, almost 700,000 residents have fled their homes in search of food and water and the UN warns that 350,000 Somali children could die of malnutrition by the summer without immediate aid. (Yahoo News)
Amid rising temperatures and air pollution, the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes is growing, making pregnant women an increasingly climate-vulnerable group and leading some doctors to provide specialized recommendations for staying safe. (The Washington Post)
Underground septic systems across the U.S.—relied upon by 20% of American households—are at risk of failure due to rising waters and intensifying rainfalls, posing threats to clean water access, ecosystems and public health. (The Washington Post)
A study on the record-breaking 2020 U.S. hurricane season found that storms are becoming increasingly powerful, with rising planetary temperatures supercharging their rainfall levels and allowing them to maintain their strength long after making landfall. (CNN)
A new report analyzing five recent tropical storms in southeast Africa revealed that climate change exacerbated their impacts, including catastrophic rainfall levels, storm surges and floods that killed more than 230 people and displaced hundreds of thousands more. (AP News)
Mobilize, mobilize, mobilize, before we lose everything.”
-Peter Kalmus, NASA Climate Scientist
The EPA is investigating several complaints against Louisiana’s health and environmental agencies, alleging that industrial facilities were allowed to operate without appropriate permits and release carcinogenic chemicals into the primarily Black communities of the state’s ‘Cancer Alley’ region. (Grist)
Private donors will provide $41 million over the next six years to study the impacts of Arctic permafrost on local Native Alaskan groups and develop policies to help these communities mitigate climate impacts. (The New York Times)
Politics & Economy
A new Gallup poll of over 1,000 American adults found that a majority support recent climate change proposals from the Biden administration, including clean energy tax incentives and EV infrastructure expansion. (The Hill)
Despite green rhetoric, climate commitments and net-zero pledges from global financial institutions, a new report revealed that commercial banks funneled $1.5 trillion into the coal industry over the last three years. (CNN)
A recent analysis found that 11 of the 25 largest utility companies in the U.S. are actively slowing federal climate action by lobbying against environmental efforts, supporting anti-climate policies and opposing efforts to retire coal use. (Bloomberg)
Life as We Know It
A new survey found that young people expect climate change to be a principal factor in future life choices, with eight out of ten teens surveyed saying the crisis will play a crucial role in their decisions, including where to live and whether they will have children. (Axios)
More than 1,000 scientists across 25 countries participated in “The Scientist Rebellion” last week—a global coalition of researchers seeking to expose the severity of the climate crisis through nonviolent civil disobedience. (Inside Climate News)
In one of the most aggressive climate laws in the U.S., Maryland’s Democratic-controlled legislature passed the Climate Solutions Now Act, which mandates net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and establishes several new environmental justice provisions. (Canary Media)
Check out the Global Citizen’s list of eight climate actions you can take to make tackling climate change your top priority this year.
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.