Climate, Health and Equity Brief
Leukemia, Budget Cuts and Philanthropy
February 21, 2020
Hot Topic: Responsibility. As global reliance on fossil fuels continues to stoke the climate crisis and drive adverse impacts on human health, those causing and benefiting financially from carbon emissions are failing to take responsibility for their actions.
One new study found that in 2019, ten U.S. oil refineries exceeded federal limits for emissions of benzene, a chemical linked to the development of blood disorders, including leukemia. Another study shows that up to 53 percent of air quality-related premature deaths in the U.S. result from emissions originating from pollution sources across state lines. And a third study found that while all countries are failing to ensure that children will grow up to enjoy a livable planet, wealthy, high carbon-emitting countries are causing the most harm, while children in poor countries suffer disproportionately as a result.
Despite ample evidence on the actions necessary to slow the climate crisis, the Trump administration continues its assault on environmental protections. The newly issued White House budget proposes to hobble or fully eliminate climate programs across several government agencies, while allocating new funds to develop additional markets for coal. Cuts range from tossing the Energy Star appliance rating program and eliminating millions for U.S. land conservation projects to stripping protections for streams, wetlands and groundwater and slashing funds for cleanup of toxic waste sites.
In good news, Jeff Bezos and Bill and Melinda Gates each announced major new commitments to climate this week, showing how private entities are helping to fill the void as our leaders shirk the responsibility to protect our planet today and for future generations.
—Matt & Traci, GMMB
A new report revealed that in 2019, ten U.S. oil refineries exceeded federal limits for emissions of benzene, a chemical linked to the development of blood disorders, including leukemia. (Reuters)
Read our interview with Gary Cohen, president and co-founder of Health Care Without Harm and Practice Greenhealth, about the important role health care professionals and the health care system have in the fight against climate change. (GMMB)
A new report ranking 180 countries on sustainability and a “child flourishing index” found that while there has been global improvement in nutrition, education and survival, disproportionately high greenhouse gas emissions from wealthy countries threaten the lives and futures of children everywhere. (The Guardian)
An investigation in South Sudan details how miscarriages and birth defects have increased in areas where oil companies are actively drilling and polluting without government regulations. (AP News)
Politics & Economy
President Trump’s 2021 budget proposal includes plans to slash EPA funding by a whopping 26 percent, cut or fully eliminate climate programs at federal science and energy agencies, and dedicate new funding to develop new uses and markets for coal. (Grist)
House Republicans have released their climate agenda, which proposes zero action on the part of coal, gas or oil industries and instead focuses on planting trees and implementing carbon capture technology. (The New York Times)
A new report found that while two-thirds of Americans now rank environmental protection as a top political priority, there remains a significant partisan divide, with the vast majority of older Republican voters remaining unmoved on the urgency of climate change. (The New York Times)
As U.S. cities struggle to pay the skyrocketing cost of recycling programs and some opt to eliminate their programs altogether, a longshot U.S. House bill calls for a pause on plastic production and aims to hold producers financially responsible for plastic waste. (Axios, The Hill)
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos pledged $10 billion to fund scientists, activists and NGOs fighting climate change. (NPR)
In their 2020 annual letter, Bill and Melinda Gates announced that their foundation will increase its focus and investment in climate change, including the development of technology to cheaply lower carbon emissions in low-income communities. (Fortune)
How bad has the Trump Administration been for the environment? These are the 95 environmental rollbacks now complete or in process following the Administration’s first three years.
“We need to wrest control over our political and regulatory systems from the very industries that have brought us to the brink of catastrophe.”
– Gary Cohen, Health Care Without Harm