Lockdowns, Bailouts and The Way Forward
Climate, Health and Equity Brief

Lockdowns, Bailouts and The Way Forward

Image credit: Justin Sullivan

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: Response. As COVID-19 explodes into a full-blown public health crisis and intensifies its grip on the global economy, the U.S. Congress and the White House are working on more than $1 trillion in emergency coronavirus relief packages that will impact specific industries—and our response to the climate crisis—for years to come.

In fossil fuels, the Trump administration has announced plans to purchase 30 million barrels of oil to fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) in the midst of collapsing prices, drawing criticism from House Democrats who argue that the move will handicap efforts to combat climate change. And the major airlines pressed the government this week for $50 billion in emergency aid, prompting some lawmakers to insist that the bailout require airlines to commit to reductions to their greenhouse gas emissions over time.

In renewable energy, as with the economy as a whole, solar and wind projects have slowed dramatically in the face of COVID-19, and momentum for many clean energy projects has stalled. Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency has urged governments to weave climate-friendly energy policies into their COVID-19 economic responses, noting that boosting deployment of wind, solar, and battery storage technology will provide the twin benefits of stimulating economies now while moving to cleaner energy in the future.

With leaders around the world debating how to help the ailing economy, decisions like these could have long-term implications for the planet. There is no question that the way world leaders respond to the economic crisis posed by COVID-19 in the months to come will determine how seriously we take the task of staving off our next global crisis—climate change—while we still have the chance.

Matt & Traci, GMMB

Drastic declines in air pollution have followed nationwide COVID-19 lockdowns in China and Italy, showing the immediate impact of reductions in the use of fossil fuels on the environment. (The Hill)

Preliminary research suggests that those living in regions with poor air quality may face increased chances of infection with COVID-19 and experience intensified effects of the disease due to lung inflammation caused by pollutants. (The Washington Post)

A new study found that current greenhouse gas emissions levels will cause a rise in humidity as global temperatures warm, putting 1.2 billion people around the world at greater risk of heat stroke and death. (SciTech Daily)

The Apache people in Arizona are fighting for legislation to stop a coal mining project on sacred lands that would disrupt local ecology and threaten the local water supply. (Our Daily Planet)

Politics & Economy
The Trump administration has announced plans to purchase 30 million barrels of oil in the midst of collapsing prices, drawing criticism from House Democrats who argue that the move would handicap efforts to combat the climate crisis. (The Hill)

Senate Democrats are pushing for emissions reduction requirements to be included as a condition for any airline relief package. (The New York Times)

The International Energy Agency is calling on world governments to include renewable energy transitions in their stimulus responses to COVID-19, promoting the “twin benefits” of economic stimulation and clean energy. (Axios)

The solar industry is facing disruptions to its global supply chain as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, prompting the industry to replace projections for 47 percent growth this year with expectations for the first decline in solar energy capacity since the 1980s. (Reuters, Axios)

A new report revealed that the world’s largest investment banks increased financing for fossil fuel extraction by 40 percent in the last year, despite touting their financing restrictions on coal, gas and Arctic oil projects. (The Guardian)

Lawmakers in Florida, Utah and Washington have passed sweeping legislation to promote electric transportation and emissions reductions, including major investments in charging infrastructure. (Utility Dive)

Looking for a source of hope? Check out this list of books to help sustain an optimistic outlook in the face of a warming planet and during these particularly trying times.

“Using this public health crisis as an excuse for another giveaway to the fossil fuel industry is badly misguided. It would only worsen the climate crisis. A corporate bailout for the oil and gas industry is not the answer to either crisis.”

–    Letter from U.S. House Democrats to President Trump, March 17, 2020