Climate, Health and Equity Brief
Historic nominees, a Democratic Senate and the opportunity to heal
January 12, 2021
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: The last straw. This week’s lawless attack on the U.S. Capitol and the very principles that underpin our democracy served as a tragic apogee to the dangerous road down which the Trump administration has taken the country and planet as a whole.
As the entire world keeps a watchful eye on Washington in the coming days, the administration continues its destructive assault on the environment behind the scenes. In recent weeks, the Trump team has finalized a new EPA rule that will allow the agency to ignore select studies showing the impact of environmental decisions on human health, and they have formalized a policy to open seven million additional acres of the pristine Alaskan wilderness up to oil extraction.
While reversing the Alaska decision will be a cumbersome and time-consuming process, President-elect Biden has pledged to halt oil and gas auctions on federal lands while in office, taking the teeth out of Mr. Trump’s Alaska policy, at least in the short-term. And his newly announced pick for Attorney General, Judge Merrick Garland, only adds to his incoming administration’s solid commitment to the environment. With a judicial record of honoring climate science and supporting environmental enforcement as outlined by the EPA, the pick stands in stark contrast to the current administration’s record of climate denial and exploitation.
Judge Garland joins other pivotal nominees at the cabinet level, includingRepresentative Deb Haaland of New Mexico, President-elect Biden’s pick to lead the Interior department, who would become the first Native American to hold a U.S. cabinet position; former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, who is expected to continue her advocacy for boldly rethinking energy policy in light of climate change as Secretary of Energy; and former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack for Agriculture and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg for Transportation, both of whom are committed to moving America toward net-zero emissions.
President-elect Biden has also tapped Michael Regan, North Carolina’s top environmental regulator, who would become the first Black American to run the EPA and brings notable experience fighting for environmental justice; Brenda Mallory, an accomplished environmental attorney, who will become the first Black American to direct the Council on Environmental Quality; tireless climate advocate Gina McCarthy, EPA administrator under president Obama, who will lead the new White House Office of Climate Policy, and former Senator and Secretary of State John Kerry, an environmental stalwart who will serve as President-elect Biden’s Climate Envoy.
And there is still more news to celebrate. The Energy Act of 2020— the first major clean energy update to U.S. energy policy in over a decade, which passed with bipartisan support in December—lays the groundwork for even more aggressive climate legislation in the years ahead. And Georgia’s pivotal election of two Democratic senators—including Raphael Warnock, elected the first Black senator from the South, an incredible and long overdue milestone—has given Democrats control of both the House and the Senate for the first time in a decade, strongly increasing the incoming Biden administration’s chances of prioritizing an aggressive climate agenda.
As this chapter of our country’s history approaches its tumultuous end, we remain hopeful that America can heal, and the Biden administration and the 117th Congress can reverse the dangerous destruction wrought since 2016 and help America and the planet turn a corner before time runs out.
—Matt & Traci, GMMB
Although a new study revealed that the amount of carbon pollution already in the air is enough to cause more than two degrees of global temperature rise, scientists say that the warming can be delayed for centuries if the world commits to ending the use of fossil fuels quickly. (AP News)
A new study analyzing the effects of poor air quality on pregnancy in South Asia found that between 2000 and 2016, more than 349,000 pregnancies were lostin the region each year due to excessive air pollution. (Environmental Health News)
A new report found that carbon dioxide emissions from California’s 2020 wildfire season are equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions from over 24 million cars driving in a single year. (Bloomberg)
The Trump administration formalized a new rule that will allow the EPA to ignore certain types of public health research when crafting new policy, a last-minute effort to weaken environmental protections that could take months to overturn. (The Washington Post)
President-elect Biden has assembled a top-notch team of nominees and appointees who will have purview over U.S. energy, transportation and climate policy, including the historic choice of leaders who will bring a much-needed focus on environmental justice to their roles (U.S. News, Sierra Club).
Rep. Debra Haaland (D-NM), Biden’s appointment to lead the Interior Department and the first Native American cabinet secretary in U.S. history, vowed to restore environmental protections for Indigenous communities, promote climate action and move green economic recovery efforts. (The Guardian)
Politics & Economy
The Energy Act of 2020, passed in late December with bipartisan support, authorizes $35 billion to fund research for clean energy innovations and renewable technology development. (E&E News)
President-elect Biden has nominated Judge Merrick Garland, a federal appeals court judge with an extensive judicial record of environmental enforcement and honoring science, as his incoming administration’s Attorney General. (Our Daily Planet)
With Democrats set to take control of the Senate following Georgia’s runoff elections, the incoming Biden administration will have greater leverage to pursue climate and clean energy legislation and reverse Trump-era rollbacks to environmental protections. (The Washington Post)
While the outgoing Trump administration chose to open seven million additional acres of the Alaskan Arctic to drilling, President-elect Biden promised to halt oil and gas auctions on federal lands once in office. (The Washington Post)
A new report revealed that extreme weather events fueled by climate change in 2020 will cost the global economy $210 billion, with damages in the U.S. totaling $95 billion after the record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season and unprecedented wildfires in the West. (CNBC)
Ready to step up your commitment to fighting climate change this year? Check out these six eco-friendly pledges to make in 2021.