Oceans under siege, glaciers at risk and slow global progress
Climate, Health and Equity Brief

Oceans under siege, glaciers at risk and slow global progress

The Climate, Health & Equity Brief is GMMB’s take on the last two weeks’ news on the current impacts of climate change. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do so by clicking here.

Hot Topic: In hot water. While the world was transfixed by the tragic voyage of the Titan submersible and the five lost souls on board this week, other deeply troubling ocean news flew a bit more below the collective radar.

First, an “exceptional” category 4 marine heat wave in the North Atlantic Ocean—defined as “extreme” by NOAA—is raising alarm among scientists. Temperatures up to 5°C (9°F) hotter than usual in some places are stressing a range of species vital to the ocean ecosystem, from fish and shellfish to algae, coral and ocean plant life. In addition to the immediate impacts, scientists also warn that increased ocean warming is likely to fuel more intense cyclones, atmospheric rivers, flooding events and sea level rise globally.

Yet another new report shows that the deepest waters of the Antarctic—which play a critical role in absorbing excess heat and carbon pollution—have warmed four times faster than the rest of the global ocean and shrunk by more than 20% over the past three decades due to reductions in sea ice formation. The resulting changes to deep-water circulation can have far-reaching consequences, including hampering carbon absorption, which limits the ocean’s ability to help mitigate climate change and its impacts.

Rising temperatures are also melting glaciers at an alarming rate. A new report found that glaciers across the Hindu Kush Himalayan range could lose up to 80% of their volume by the end century without significant emissions reductions. This result would trigger increased flash floods and avalanches and impede freshwater access for more than 2 billion people across 16 countries in Asia, many of which have contributed little in the way of global carbon emissions.

Despite clear planetary signals and dire warnings from scientists, global leaders struggled to achieve action and progress at two high-profile global climate convenings in recent days. At talks in Bonn and Paris, disagreements centered around just how much wealthy nations should financially support the developing countries now trying to grow their economies without the same reliance on fossil fuels, all while suffering the most severe climate impacts. One can’t overstate how much now hinges on the willingness of world leaders to take significant action at COP28, as the warnings from nature and humanity grow stronger with each passing day. 

Human Health

Monsoon rains brought much-needed relief to India after a brutal heat wave plagued the country, resulting in over 100 heat-related casualties as temperatures soared as high as 115°F in highly populated areas. (Bloomberg)

Climate change is leading to milder winters and longer spring and summer seasons, extending prime tick season and resulting in a greater prevalence of the blacklegged tick, the primary carrier of Lyme disease. (TIME)

Over 38 million Americans in the South and Southwest faced extreme heat advisories this week as temperatures soared well above 100°F, leaving hundreds of thousands without power and breaking temperature records in several Texas cities. (CNN)

Planetary Health

An “unprecedented” marine heat wave in the North Atlantic Ocean is raising alarm among scientists as temperatures up to 5°C (9°F) hotter than usual in some places stress and kill marine life and threaten to trigger more extreme weather, flooding and sea-level rise. (CNN, Los Angeles Times)

Scientists have found that deep, salty Antarctic “bottom waters” are heating up and have shrunk by 20%, raising concerns due to their vital role in absorbing excess heat and capturing and sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. (CNN)

A new report reveals that some Himalayan glaciers could lose up to 80% of their volume this century if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated, causing more flash floods and avalanches and threatening freshwater availability for nearly 2 billion people. (TIME)

Scientists estimate the area burned during an average California wildfire could rise as much as 50% by 2050 as drier air, hotter summer temperatures, and poorly managed forests continue to increase the intensity and number of California wildfires. (CNBC)

Scientists at the Niels Bohr Institute have preserved and studied 40,000 polar ice core segments that provide hundreds of thousands of years of data on climate patterns, atmospheric composition and the effects of humans on both, all of which can help inform climate mitigation strategies. (Hakai Magazine)


The White House launched a new environmental justice scorecard aimed at assessing the work of federal agencies in addressing environmental justice. (USGBC)

Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey (D) established the nation’s first green bank dedicated to making affordable housing more climate-friendly with an initial grant of $50 million from the state. (Boston Globe)

Politics & Economy

Republican-led states across the U.S. are passing laws to prevent Democratic-led cities and counties from enacting ambitious climate regulations, sparking intrastate climate battles that disempower local officials and limit their ability to combat climate change. (The Washington Post)

The head of the UN’s climate body expressed dissatisfaction with the slow progress of the Bonn climate talks as negotiators failed to make specific advancements and faced challenges on climate action financing from fossil fuel-producing nations. (Reuters)

The global finance summit in Paris offered some relief to debt-ridden developing countries but fell short of approving a debt forgiveness program or achieving concrete measures to combat poverty and climate change, disappointing campaigners who emphasized the urgent need for action. (The Guardian)

A new report found that while publicly listed corporations aiming for net zero emissions increased from 417 in late 2020 to 929 today, only 38 (4.1%) of those companies have developed a credible plan or met the criteria established by the United Nations Race to Zero campaign. (AP News)

Four major environmental groups—the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund, NextGen PAC, Sierra Club, and the NRDC Action Fund—jointly endorsed President Biden’s bid for reelection, marking the first time all four groups have issued a joint endorsement. (CNN)

Life as We Know It

Norwegian cruise line Hurtigruten plans to build the world’s first zero-emission cruise ship by 2030, aiming to lead by example in a polluting industry that has faced significant challenges in the adoption of green technologies, slow progress in emissions reduction, and limitations of battery-powered ships for ocean crossings. (TIME)

A new survey finds that more than 53% of parents in India, Mexico, Singapore, the U.S. and the U.K. say climate change has impacted their decision to have more kids. (CNBC)


President Biden announced $600 million in Inflation Reduction Act funding to help coastal and Great Lakes communities susceptible to storm surge, sea level rise and flooding and support innovative solutions to boost climate resilience. (Los Angeles Times)

The General Services Administration will use $975 million from the Inflation Reduction Act to install clean-energy technologies in federal buildings nationwide, aiming to make 28 buildings net zero and 100 buildings all electric. (The Washington Post)

A California-based company has announced plans to build the largest charging depot in the state, which will have enough open land, grid power and high-voltage chargers to serve up to 96 battery-powered heavy-duty trucks at a time—a significant step toward California’s goal of decarbonizing trucking by 2035. (Canary Media)


Looking for new ways to talk to children about climate change? Check out these helpful resources from the Climate Mental Health Network, including guides, scripts, worksheets and film recommendations. (Climate Mental Health Network)

It is the worst of times but it is the best of times because we still have a chance.”

– oceanographer Sylvia Earl

The GMMB Climate, Health & Equity Brief would not be possible without the contributions of the larger GMMB team— Aaron Benavides, Thomas Baer, Stefana Hendronetto, Sharde Olabanji, Marci Welford, and Nikki Melamed. Feedback on the Brief is welcome and encouraged and should be sent to CHandEBrief@gmmb.com.