Climate, Health and Equity Brief
Pro-climate advances in crypto, forests and corporate philanthropy
September 19, 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: Yin and yang. Several new reports out this week highlight the speed with which the changing climate is wreaking havoc on our planet—while a number of groundbreaking actions offer a ray of hope. First, a new analysis of the agricultural sector found that high temperatures already pose “extreme risk” to food production in 20 countries—and increasing heat will wither crops, jeopardize the health of outdoor workers and threaten nearly three-quarters of the world’s current food output by 2045.
Another report found it likely that four climate ‘tipping points’ will be reached much closer to our current temperature, and with an overall increase of only 1.5°C (2.7°F), or just ~0.3°C from where we stand today—including the potential collapse of the Greenland and West Antarctic Ice Sheets, the thaw of the Boreal Permafrost and the die-off of warm-water coral reefs.
A third report found that rising sea levels could inundate 4.4 million acres of U.S. land in the next few decades, threatening homes and businesses, displacing communities and eliminating a property tax base that funds local government operations and schools.
Despite the dire outlook, there is momentum for change and news to celebrate this week. First, Etherium—the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency, and one with an enormous carbon footprint—has reduced its energy consumption by 99.99% by transitioning to a process far less reliant on powerful, energy-intensive computer programs, signaling hope for the nascent market.
Across Africa, governments are capitalizing on the exploding global carbon market by implementing dozens of mangrove restoration projects across the continent. With trees “suddenly worth more alive than dead,” community-led voluntary initiatives supported by large international carbon credit organizations are planting tens of thousands of trees across the continent, a development that has been described as a game-changer.
And in a groundbreaking and selfless act of corporate philanthropy, Patagonia founder Yvon Choinard transferred ownership of his wildly successful outdoor apparel company, valued at $3 billion, to a trust and a nonprofit organization that will invest all of its $100 million in annual profits to combat climate change.
—Matt & Traci, GMMB
A new analysis estimates that rising temperatures already pose an extreme risk to agriculture in 20 countries, and that number will extend to 64 countries— including the United States, and representing 71% of food production—by 2045. (News24)
Natural disasters in Texas—the state ranked dead last for access to mental health services—are exacerbating climate trauma among coastal residents forced to grapple with anxiety, dread, disrepair and displacement in the face of repeated extreme weather events. (Texas Tribune)
College campuses around the U.S. are piloting new climate anxiety programs and expanding existing counseling services to combat rising climate distress in students. (The Washington Post)
A new study of climate tipping points—thresholds that, when crossed, lead to large and often irreversible changes in the climate system—found that four tipping points will be reached even if warming is limited to 1.5°C (2.7°F). (Axios)
A startling new report predicts that rising sea levels could partially or fully submerge 4.4 million acres of U.S. land in the next few decades, threatening more than 650,000 parcels of land and the communities that inhabit them. (The Hill)
A new report by the UN’s World Meteorological Organization found that weather-related disasters have increased fivefold in the last 50 years, each day killing 115 people and costing an average of $200 million per day. (AP News)
I’ve found the cure for depression is action.”
— Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia
The ascendancy of King Charles III, who has been historically vocal on climate issues, is bringing renewed attention to the legacy of British colonialism as a driver of climate change and its impact on former British colonies, which make up eight of the top 10 most climate-vulnerable countries. (Atmos, The Hill)
Long waits for public housing in Hong Kong are forcing 220,000 poorer residents—about 3 percent of the population—to live in cramped rooftop huts, subdivided apartments and cage homes that can be 9-11°F hotter than outdoors during a heat wave. (The Washington Post)
Politics & Economy
Despite King Charles III’s vocal advocacy for greater climate action as Prince of Wales, his duty to remain politically neutral as King—and Britain’s new conservative government under Prime Minister Liz Truss—leave the country’s commitment to its climate goals uncertain. (BBC, The New York Times)
The Ukraine war and a global drought have led European nations to restart formerly shuttered coal plants, caused China to increase coal use, and fueled an increase in the cost of coal worldwide, representing a daunting about-face from the global focus on cutting emissions. (Axios)
August’s record-setting drought in southwestern China has caused ripple effects around the globe by shuttering factories, crippling economic activity and freezing the international supply chain for automobiles, electronics and other goods. (The New York Times)
Life as We Know It
Rockfalls from melting ice, wildfires, flooding and landslides caused by changing rainfall patterns are making adventure and nature-based tourism riskier and making guides’ jobs more challenging and unsafe. (BBC)
Startup firm Climate Alpha unveiled software that forecasts real estate values under various climate scenarios, a tool that can help businesses, governments and individual homeowners make “proactive relocation” decisions that consider rising sea levels, rising temperatures and extreme weather events. (Axios)
In a groundbreaking act of corporate philanthropy, the owner of outdoor apparel company Patagonia, Yvon Choinard, transferred ownership of the $3 billion company to a specially designed trust and a nonprofit organization that will ensure all of its $100 million in annual profits are used to combat climate change. (The New York Times)
California passed a package of new climate laws that will establish the nation’s first statewide extreme heat warning system by 2025, study the effects of extreme heat on California’s workers, and enable cities and counties to create “climate resilience districts” with taxing authority to address heat waves, drought, and wildfires. (Los Angeles Tiems)
Ethereum—the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency, and one with an enormous carbon footprint—has implemented a massive software upgrade that reduces its energy consumption by 99.99% by transitioning to a process far less reliant on powerful, energy-intensive computer programs. (CNBC)
African governments are capitalizing on the exploding global carbon market industry by implementing dozens of forest restoration projects across Africa— home to vast swaths of carbon-absorbing lands that cover 22.7% of the continent—allowing Africa to tap into the value of its natural assets. (PBS)
Is climate anxiety becoming a regular occurence in your life? Check out these 21 resources from Greenpeace for advice, hope, support and action.
The GMMB Climate, Health & Equity Brief would not be possible without the contributions of the larger GMMB California team—Aaron Benavides, Elke Cortes, 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.