Climate, Health and Equity Brief
Infrastructure, Inequity & Investment
September 26, 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: Powerless Three distinct and massive storms caused destruction in Alaska, Japan and Puerto Rico last Sunday. The most intense storm ever recorded in the Bering Sea slammed into the western coast of Alaska, Japan’s Typhoon Nanmadol became the country’s 14th typhoon this season alone and fourth-strongest storm to ever make landfall in the country, and Hurricane Fiona put the entire island of Puerto Rico under a flash flood warning.
Fiona also knocked out power to the entire island of Puerto Rico—and many residents remain without power nearly a week later. The situation puts a giant spotlight on the inequity of climate change and the lack of investments in resilience. The island’s 3.3 million residents have faced constant power instability following the Trump administration’s bungled response to Hurricane Maria in 2017—and as a U.S. territory, Puerto Rico has no votes in the federal government that manages investment in and contractors for its electricity grid.
In the face of this event and similar tragedies playing out around the globe, it’s heartening to see leaders and philanthropists begin to pledge financial support to those facing the most severe impacts. In his Climate Week address on Tuesday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on leaders of wealthy nations to tax the “windfall profits” and “hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies” enjoyed by fossil fuel companies—and redirect those funds to help poor countries build climate resilience.
Thankfully, there were two important steps in the direction of global climate equity this week: First, Denmark became the first wealthy nation to pledge compensation for the consequences of emissions committing $13 million to assist vulnerable countries that have suffered “loss and damage” from climate change—a move other wealthy countries have declined to make out of concern that it would imply their legal liability for the climate crisis. And former New York mayor and billionaire philanthropist Mike Bloomberg committed funding to accelerate the transition to clean energy in 15 additional developing countries where “demand for power is projected to grow rapidly and there is abundant potential for renewable energy such as solar and wind.”
Neither is a replacement for the massive sums needed from wealthy countries to help poorer nations speed their energy transitions and shore up their infrastructure, but both signal a broadening recognition that no country can be be left to fend for itself in the face of a global crisis nurtured far from its shores.
— Matt and Traci
Note: The Brief will be on hiatus next week, returning to your inboxes on Saturday, October 8
A new compilation from Axios’ Climate Truths Deep Dive Series explores the climate change-fueled global health crisis and how the healthcare industry is responding while attempting to cut its own carbon footprint. (Axios)
California is opening hundreds of clean air centers across the state to provide a respite from wildfire-induced air pollution and prioritizing placement of the centers within underserved communities that face the worst pollution and are among the least likely to have air purifiers in their homes. (San Francisco Chronicle)
The three blockbuster storms that struck Alaska, Puerto Rico and Japan this week displayed unusual characteristics in their intensity, formation and impacts and caused severe destruction to vulnerable coastal communities, outcomes scientists say we should expect more of in a rapidly warming world. (Axios)
A new study found that rising average temperatures and decreasing rainfall could causetd hree-quarters of current urban tree species to perish by 2050, prompting calls for cities to plant species that are much more tolerant of hot, dry conditions. (New Scientist)
“It is high time to put fossil fuel producers, investors and enablers on notice. Polluters must pay.”
-U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres
While only a Category 1 storm, Hurricane Fiona knocked out power to all 3.3. million Puerto Rico residents and left millions without water access due to chronic underinvestment, bankrupt utility companies, and the Trump administration’s restriction of funds to rebuild their infrastructure after Hurricane Maria wiped it out in 2017. (The New York Times, E&E News)
In a victory for environmental justice, a U.S. court revoked permits for a new plastics plant in the largely Black region of Louisiana known as Cancer Alley, ruling that the plant would double toxic emissions in the area and release up to 13 million tons of greenhouse gases a year. (The Guardian)
Politics & Economy
The U.S. Senate finally ratified the 2016 Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, joining 137 nations that had already committed to phasing out the use of hydrofluorocarbons—the super pollutants used in refrigerators and air conditioners that are 1,000 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at trapping heat. (The New York Times)
Global leaders were warned this week that farm and food investors could lose up to a quarter of their value by 2030 if they do not adapt to new government policies and consumer behavior tied to climate change such as carbon emissions taxes and reduction in meat consumption. (Reuters)
In his opening remarks for the U.N. General Assembly, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said the fossil fuel should use their massive profits to support victims of climate change and offset rising fuel and food costs, urging countries to tax energy company profits and redirect the funds to countries facing the worst effects of the climate crisis. (AP News)
A report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) cited a lack of collaboration and knowledge sharing between countries developing new climate technologies as a barrier to reducing global emissions and making a rapid transition to clean energy. (Reuters
Life as We Know It
With air conditioners accounting for 60 to 70 percent of demand on energy grids during heat waves, researchers and startups are racing to improve their energy efficiency before demand rises from roughly 2 billion a/c units today to an expected 5.6 billion by 2050. (The Washington Post)
Farmers around the world are increasingly turning their attention to five specific crops that may be critical to feeding humanity in a rapidly warming world: amaranth, cowpeas, fonio, taro, and kernza. (The Guardian)
Families along the U.S. West Coast increasingly struggle to spend time outdoors in the summer due to dangerous air quality from wildfires, which have exploded in recent years and are expected to continue to increase by more than 30% in the next three decades. (The New York Times)
Denmark became the first U.N. member country to commit funding ($13 million) to assist vulnerable countries that have suffered damages from climate change, which most wealthy countries have refused to do out of concern that it would imply they have legal liability for climate change’s escalating toll. (The Washington Post)
Bloomberg Philanthropies announced it would invest in the development of clean energy infrastructure in 15 nations that are particularly vulnerable to climate change. (The Washington Post)
Australian iron mining giant Fortescue Metals Group announced that it will eliminate carbon emissions from its operations by 2030 and invest $6.2 billion in renewable energy generation, battery storage, and a green auto fleet that will prevent a combined 3.3 million tons of CO2 emissions a year. (AP News)
Experience Poet Amanda Gorman reading “An Ode We Owe” at the UN General Assembly, a poem that calls for unity and takes a deep look at how social issues such as hunger and poverty have impacted Earth’s preservation. (AP)
The GMMB Climate, Health & Equity Brief would not be possible without the contributions of the larger GMMB California team—Aaron Benavides, Thomas Baer, Quincy Tichenor, Sharde Olabanji and Stefana Simonetto. Feedback on the Brief is welcome and encouraged and should be sent to CHandEBrief@gmmb.com.