Temps soar, grids strain and the U.S. acts
Climate, Health and Equity Brief

Temps soar, grids strain and the U.S. acts

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: Vulnerability. So far this summer, nearly one in three Americans has faced extreme, record-setting heatwaves. Amid the grueling temperatures, the nation’s aging power grids are under sharp scrutiny for exacerbating heat-related threats. In California—where heatwaves have been raging for almost two weeks now—energy demand swelled to unprecedented levels on Tuesday, prompting state officials to warn of possible rolling blackouts to maintain grid stability.

Thanks to urgent text alerts and voluntary power reductions among Californians, worst-case-scenario power outages were averted. However, the possibility of life-threatening power shut-offs in sustained periods of 110°+ heat has raised the stakes for what is to come— and the urgency with which we must modernize our power grids.

Like many impacts of the climate crisis, energy grid overloads pose the most significant risk to low-income communities and communities of color. Due to a history of discriminatory housing practices like redlining—the systematic denial of services to residents based on race or ethnicity—communities of color disproportionately live in neighborhoods supported by low-quality, outdated infrastructure.

A recent analysis of electricity equity found that 29% of Hispanic and 20% of Black households received a disconnection notice during extreme weather events, and Hispanics were 80% more likely—and Blacks 30% more likely—to have their service disconnected than white households.

While there is no shortage of dire news about climate impacts, there is also a marked increase in hopeful developments stateside now that the United States has retaken a global leadership position on climate change. Last week, the Biden administration announced that Washington policy veteran John Podesta will oversee the allocation of the $370 billion in climate investments within the landmark Inflation Reduction Act (IPA). To address the issues identified above, IPA funding includes $60 billion to update energy infrastructure, $60 billion to address public health threats in disadvantaged communities, $9 billion to help low-income consumers increase their home energy efficiency and $1 billion for energy upgrades to affordable housing.

—Matt & Traci, GMMB


Human Health

The unprecedented heat wave that gripped the U.S. West over the last week is the most severe ever recorded during September, shattering nearly 1,000 all-time temperature records across multiple states—some by large margins—and threatening the lethal prospect of rolling blackouts due to the strain on power infrastructure. (The Washington Post)

The UN is on the brink of declaring famine in Somalia, as the country’s climate-fueled drought, now underway for four straight years, has resulted in one million people being displaced, 7.1 million people—half the country’s population—requiring food assistance, and 1.5 million children expected to face acute malnutrition by October. (Axios)

FEMA Director Deanne Criswell acknowledged this week that increasingly extreme and unpredictable weather patterns have rendered FEMA’s existing flood maps inadequate, with one analysis finding that federal maps underestimated the number of homes and businesses in significant danger by 67%. (The Guardian)

Planetary Health

A new report found that the combined emissions targets of G7 companies are on a trajectory for 2.7°C (4.9°F) of warming, falling far short of achieving the Paris Agreement goal to keep increases below 1.5°C. (Reuters)

A new report revealed that the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East regions are warming almost twice as fast as the global average, increasing extreme heat waves, droughts, and dust storms and compromising food and water security for the region’s 400 million people. (AP News)

“This is the new normal.”

– Jan Null, California meteorologist, on the West’s debilitating heat wave

Equity

Wealthy nations pledged $25 billion in new funding by 2025 to help improve the climate resilience and renewable energy capacity of African nations, but the amount falls far short of the estimated $1.3 to $1.6 trillion the continent will need this decade to meet its Paris climate goals. (AP News)

Among the 20 million U.S. households that have unpaid electricity bills, studies show that Black, Latino and Indigenous families are much more likely to have their power disconnected than white households—and despite increasingly brutal temperatures, only 18 states have protections against such utility shut-offs during deadly heat waves. (Grist)

Politics & Economy

Veteran Washington insider John Podesta—founder of the Center for American Progress, former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton and an instrumental force in President Obama’s climate strategy—has been appointed by President Biden to oversee the allocation of the nearly $370 billion in climate funds for the Inflation Reduction Act. (The New York Times)

A new analysis argues that quickly reaching net-zero emissions and transitioning to clean energy will require loosening some environmental regulations that are delaying energy infrastructure projects – even if it allows for the construction of more fossil fuel infrastructure in the short term. (The Washington Post)

A new study reports on the role of American electric utility companies in spreading climate denialism, denouncing the importance of climate research, and forming groups that actively fought climate action. (The Atlantic)

Life as We Know It

A new analysis of the fashion industry’s approach to designing clothing for life on a warming planet finds that the best options are the most expensive, consumers must often navigate confusing or questionable claims, and improvements in one area almost always entail trade-offs elsewhere. (The New York Times)

Action

An analysis in the Financial Times argues that we have finally reached an “optimistic era” for fighting climate change, with renewables cheaper and more easily accessible than ever, countries finally passing serious climate legislation, large majorities supporting climate action, and adaptation measures taking hold. (The Financial Times)

A range of faith-based organizations led by Jews, Quakers, Catholics, and evangelicals launched into action to support the climate provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act, serving as critical advocates for the landmark legislation passed early last month. (E&E News)

California will invest $3 million over the next two years to restore its beaver population, which can help fight droughts and wildfires by creating dams that divert rivers and streams into vast wetland areas. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Kicker

Take a look at the Biden Administration’s newly launched climate portal that will help state, local, Tribal and territorial leaders better track real-time impacts of climate change and access federal resources for mitigation and adaptation.

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.

Press Inquiry