Climate, Health and Equity Brief
Human health, mass displacement and national security
October 27, 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 heat is on. While the Biden Administration and Congressional Democrats work to salvage a decent climate plan despite the demands of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), and as world leaders prepare for COP26, a slate of new reports details the perils promised by the climate crisis if the world fails to act.
- Human health. A report from The Lancetwarns that climate change is set to become the “defining narrative of human health.” The report cites the increase of heat-related illness and death; the increased spread of tropical diseases; the proliferation of plant pollen and wildfire smoke and resulting respiratory conditions; catastrophic storms that take lives and exacerbate the spread of waterborne diseases; and intensifying droughts that threaten hunger for millions as all presenting a clear and increasing danger to humanity.
- National security. An unprecedented release of reports by the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, the National Security Council and the director of national intelligence predict that climate change will fuel worsening conflict, cause mass displacement and heighten military tensions, all of which threaten national security in the U.S. and abroad.
- Mass displacement. The reports outlined above noted that climate-fueled mass migration will have an outsized effect on vulnerable communities, exacerbate global resource inequalities, cause mass migration to stable democracies, and provide violent extremist organizations with the opportunity to exploit these instabilities.
Despite this, more reports emerging this week show just how far the world is from embracing these realities. Leaked documents revealed that several powerful countries lobbied the UN to downplay language on the impact of fossil fuels in the recent IPCC report. The vast majority of 9,000 publicly traded companies reviewed in a new study are falling short of the commitments necessary to get global emissions in check. And the UN projects that global fossil fuel use in 2030 will still be 110 percent higher than necessary to avert the worst impacts of the climate crisis.
— Matt & Traci, GMMB
A new report published by The Lancet found that climate change is set to become the “defining narrative of human health” as climate-fueled food shortages, deadly weather disasters and disease outbreaks threaten the lives of millions. (The Washington Post)
A new White House report details how climate change is expected to displace tens of millions of people, causing a surge of climate change refugees particularly in countries located in Latin America, the Middle East and Asia. (The New York Times)
In the Fertile Crescent—a region where human civilization first emerged and flourished, and that includes all or part of 10 countries in the Middle East—intense heat and severe drought have left much of the region barren and resulted in severe shortages of food, water and electricity for tens of millions of people. (The Washington Post)
Devastating floods and landslides killed at least 200 people in India and Nepal with dozens still missing after record-breaking rainfall in the region at a time when heavy rain is highly unusual. (CNN)
Politics & Economy
A new US Department of Defense report details how climate change will increase global threats to national security due to worsening heat and drought, increasing food shortages, battles over water rights, and mass human migration. (The New York Times)
A new US EIA report found that coal-fired electric power will increase 22 percent this year in the US, while a new UN report found that in 2030, fossil fuel production overall will be 110 percent greater than what is needed to meet Paris Agreement goals to limit planetary warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F) and avert the worst impacts of climate change. (CNN)
A new report found that out of 9,000 companies reviewed worldwide, only 10 percent currently align with the Paris Agreement goals, a fact that threatens to increase global temperatures by 3°C (5.4°F) if listed companies do nothing to change their current projected emissions, experts warn. (Financial Times)
Newly leaked documents reveal that several countries—including Saudi Arabia, Japan and Australia—lobbied the UN to weaken language in the IPCC report released in August by downplaying the need to move away from fossil fuels. (BBC News)
The cornerstone of President Biden’s climate package—the Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP), which would speed decarbonization of the electrical grid—is expected to be removed from the Democratic budget bill due to the opposition of Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV). (The New York Times)
Every day that we delay our response to climate change, the situation gets more critical.”
-Marina Romanello, research director and lead author on The Lancet report
Satellites have found that in Russia—methane emissions, which trap 80 times more heat in the atmosphere in the short term than C02—are far greater than reported, with the number of methane plumes emitted from aging Russian gas infrastructure rising by at least 40 percent last year alone. (The Washington Post)
The Russian Arctic is melting 2.8 times faster than the global average, leading to the melting of permafrost which could total nearly $100 billion in infrastructure damages in the next 30 years. (Reuters)
The continent of Africa is responsible for less than four percent of the greenhouse gas emissions that are exacerbating climate change, but a new UN report details the continent’s “disproportionate vulnerability,” estimating that 118 million people will experience climate-fueled drought, floods and extreme heat by 2030. (Al Jazeera)
Indigenous communities from Ecuador’s Amazon region are suing the government to prevent oil development and planned mining in the region, both of which would continue to decimate the Amazon forest, one of Earth’s most vital carbon sinks. (Reuters)
Nine companies— including Amazon, Brooks Running, Frog Bikes, IKEA, Inditex, Michelin, Patagonia, Tchibo, and Unilever—have committed to using ocean shipping vessels that utilize only zero-carbon fuel by 2040. (The Washington Post)
Forty cement and concrete manufacturers worldwide have committed to cutting their carbon dioxide emissions by 25 percent by 2030, a pledge that is expected to prevent nearly five billion tons of carbon emissions if met. (The Guardian)
COP26 won’t be the only climate event in Glasgow this year. Check out this Glasgow nightclub testing new technology that uses body heat to power the entire venue.
The GMMB Climate, Health & Equity Brief would not be possible without the contributions of the larger GMMB California team—Aaron Benavides, Elke Cortes, Stefana Simonetto and Sydney Lykins. Feedback on the Brief is welcome and encouraged and should be sent to CHandEBrief@gmmb.com.