Climate, Health and Equity Brief
Republican rollbacks and retaliation
June 7, 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: Losing ground. A major report released this week by researchers at Columbia and Yale offers a jarring look at the United States’ dismal progress in addressing the climate crisis. The Environmental Performance Index (EPI), which ranks countries on climate change performance, environmental health and ecosystem vitality, found that the U.S. plunged from 15th to 101st out of 180 countries on climate metrics, which researchers largely attribute to the wanton rollback of environmental protections by the Trump Administration.
Even without control of the White House, Republican lawmakers continue to derail U.S. climate efforts. With the midterm elections approaching—along with the prospect of a Republican-controlled House and Senate—details of a new energy and climate roadmap were unveiled by House Republicans this week. The plan fails to set specific greenhouse gas emission targets and calls for ramped up fossil fuel production, increased liquified natural gas exports and streamlined permitting for large-scale infrastructure projects—all moves that would further impede U.S. climate progress.
At the state level, Republican legislators across the country have launched coordinated pressure campaigns targeting climate-conscious companies. In West Virginia, state funding has been pulled from BlackRock—the world’s largest asset manager—for naming climate change an economic risk. In Utah and Idaho, officials have condemned a major ratings agency for considering environmental risks when assessing states’ creditworthiness. And in more than a dozen states, conservative leaders are setting wheels in motion to prevent state retirement and investment funds from doing business with companies committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Of the 180 countries evaluated by the Environmental Performance Index that have pledged to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, only Britain and Denmark are on track to actually achieve the target. Chillingly, many U.S. lawmakers seem set on ensuring our country never achieves anything close.
—Matt & Traci, GMMB
A new study published in the British Medical Journal warns that a new specialty in climate cardiology is needed to address the growing impact of climate change on cardiovascular health, with scientists attributing an estimated 93,000 cardiac deaths globally to high temperatures in 2019. (Medicalxpress.com)
Extreme rainfall triggered catastrophic landslides and floods across Northeastern Brazil, killing at least 91 people, destroying more than 4,000 homes and displacing thousands of people across the region. (CNN)
Hurricane Agatha became the strongest hurricane in recorded history to make landfall during the month of May, killing 11 people and leaving 20 missing in the southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico. (AP News)
The biennial Environmental Performance Index found that only two countries on the planet—Denmark and Britain—are on a sustainable path to becoming carbon neutral by 2050, and the U.S. dropped from 15th to 101st place globally on climate mitigation due in large part due to Trump-era policies that rolled back or impeded progress. (The New York Times)
This House Republican proposal is a stunning display of insincerity to admit climate change is a problem but to propose policies that make it worse.”
– House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ)
The green transition is leading to concern within Indigenous communities whose territories are home to a significant proportion of energy-transition metals, with 97% of nickel, 89% of copper, 79% of lithium and 68% of cobalt in the U.S. alone located within 35 miles of a Native American reservation. (Reuters)
The recent deadly heatwaves in South Asia underscore the climate justice paradox that many underdeveloped nations face, as they are historically the most negligible contributors to climate change yet are now the most vulnerable to its impacts. (The New York Times)
Politics & Economy
House Republicans unveiled a new energy and climate plan this week that fails to set specific emission targets and calls for ramping up fossil fuel production and liquefied natural gas exports, among other measures. (CNBC)
Across the country, Republican lawmakers and their allies have launched a coordinated campaign to pressure private companies against taking climate action by threatening to punish those that divest from fossil fuels or otherwise prioritize environmental and social issues. (The New York Times)
Energy experts warn there will be more frequent summer blackouts in the U.S. stemming from outdated power grids that are neither designed nor prepared to withstand the excessive heat or extreme weather that only promise to intensify. (CNN)
Following three days of talks focused on climate change, G7 countries renewed their calls for OPEC to increase oil and gas production in the face of the Ukrainian invasion, while also announcing a breakthrough commitment to phase out coal-fueled power, though a phase-out date has yet to be set. (Reuters)
Life as We Know It
The beloved Pacific Crest Trail—dubbed America’s greatest wild and scenic trail experience—is undergoing severe ecological deterioration fueled by climate change as heat, drought and wildfires increasingly mar the landscape and threaten the trail’s long-term outlook. (The San Francisco Chronicle)
New water use restrictions set by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California require 6 million Los Angeles residents to limit their water consumption, with Governor Newsom signaling that more strict and widespread restrictions are likely across the state in the face of the third consecutive year of severe drought. (The Washington Post)
Increased heat, prolonged drought and resulting water shortages are causing tomato farmers in California—where 90% of all canned tomatoes in the U.S. are grown—to cut back on their output, potentially reducing the availability and increasing the cost of America’s second-most consumed vegetable. (National Geographic)
Scientists from 35 countries are working together on the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor—the world’s largest fusion energy project—which, if successful, could provide Earth with an unlimited zero-emissions energy resource without any long-life radioactive waste. (CNN)
The UN Development Programme is engaging a younger and more isolated audience through video games that advocate, teach and engage players in climate change action. (UN News)
Keep up with climate action in governments around the world through the Climate Action Tracker.
The GMMB Climate, Health & Equity Brief would not be possible without the contributions of the larger GMMB California team— Elke Cortes, Devin Della Maggoria, Sharde Olabanji and Stefana Simonetto. Feedback on the Brief is welcome and encouraged and should be sent to CHandEBrief@gmmb.com.