Climate, Health and Equity Brief
The hottest days on Earth and no relief in sight
July 17, 2023
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: The scary new normal. Summer 2023 is proving to be another one for the record books, with relentless extreme heat making life miserable for billions. Analysis of global temperatures revealed that the first week of July was likely the hottest “ever” recorded on Earth — meaning the hottest since the interglacial period some 120,000 years ago.
Death Valley, CA is projected to reach a scorching 131°F in the coming days, but traditionally sweltering locations are not alone in their suffering. A massive bicoastal heat dome has covered 15 U.S. states, resulting in 100 million people being placed under heat advisories and warnings, some with no relief in sight.
And the climate situation is exacting a tragic human toll. A study in Nature Medicine found that extreme heat led to more than 61,000 deaths in Europe last summer—more than any year in recorded history. Another study by the Center for American Progress estimates that exceedingly high temperatures will create $1 billion in health care costs and require nearly 235,000 emergency department visits in the U.S. this summer alone, with the urban poor expected to be hardest hit.
Unfortunately, extreme heat is not alone in wreaking havoc this summer. Devastating floods have torn through the Northeast U.S. and parts of Japan, Turkey, China, and India, taking lives, displacing tens of thousands of people and sweeping away homes, businesses, and critical infrastructure. And Canada’s record wildfires continue to multiply and burn, spreading toxic air to cities in the U.S. Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest, with more than 19 million acres of carbon-absorbing forest destroyed to date.
Despite this reality, Republicans continue their efforts to block climate action in Congress, and given the domestic tumult of the last several years, just 8% of Americans identify climate change as the most pressing issue facing the country today.
The UN Secretary-General has expressed grave concern over the “out of control” climate crisis as data show this summer shattering records globally, with July expected to emerge as the warmest month recorded on Earth since the interglacial period some 120,000 years ago. (The Guardian)
According to a study published in Nature Medicine, extreme heat led to more than 61,000 deaths in Europe during the Summer of 2022—more than any year in recorded history. (TIME)
A massive heat dome is causing temperatures to soar and threatening to break all-time records across the U.S., raising risks of heat-related illness for over 100 million people in 15 states—some of which have seen no relief from the heat for more than a month. (The Washington Post)
A new report estimates that extreme heat will require nearly 235,000 emergency department visits and create $1 billion in health care costs in the U.S. this summer alone, with the urban poor who often lack access to air conditioning and green spaces expected to be hardest hit. (Grist)
Relentless monsoon floods in northern India have claimed the lives of at least 100 people, closed more than 1,000 roads, requiring the rescue of 60,000 people and caused significant damage to electricity and power infrastructure. (The Washington Post)
A powerful storm dumped as much as nine inches of rain across the Northeastern U.S., killing at least one person and leading to hundreds of evacuations and rescues due to catastrophic flooding. (The New York Times, CNN)
Canada’s wildfire season has now burned over 19 million acres, exposing residents of the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest U.S. to hazardous air quality and releasing the largest annual estimated wildfire emissions since tracking began. (Axios)
A new study has found that once 1-in-100-year storms in the U.S. are now likely to happen every 50 years, and could occur as often as every 5 to 10 years in much of the Northeast, the Ohio River Basin, Northwestern California, the Texas Gulf Coast and the Mountain West. (CNN)
According to a new study, climate change is increasing underground temperatures and causing the ground in some cities to sink, highlighting the need for structures to be designed to withstand temperature variations in order to prevent structural damage. (USA Today)
A new study reveals that over 90% of the world’s marine food supply is in jeopardy due to pollution and climate change and emphasizes the urgent need for adaptation strategies to mitigate the growing risk, which endangers the livelihoods and nutritional security of billions of people worldwide. (Reuters)
Despite opposition from House Republicans, the EPA has launched a $20 billion grant program known as the “green bank” to fund clean-energy projects across the U.S., with a focus on projects in disadvantaged communities that have struggled to attract private investment. (The Washington Post)
Politics & Economy
A new report found that fossil fuels made up 82% of the world’s total energy consumption in 2022, showing the world still has major work to do to lower emissions and stave off the worst impacts of the climate crisis. (The Guardian)
Republicans continue to attack climate spending in Congress, introducing bills and amendments to block funding streams established under the Inflation Reduction Act and prohibit the federal government from advancing policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (Inside Climate News)
New polling by Pew Research Center reveals that while 74% of Americans support efforts to reduce the effects of climate change, only 31% support completely phasing out fossil fuels, the primary contributor to the climate crisis. (Axios)
Even as catastrophic floods, extreme heat and monster storms become the “new normal,” public concern about climate change remains low—with just 8% of Americans identifying it as the most pressing issue facing the country. (The New York Times)
Less than 5% of 401(k) plans offer environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) funds, making it difficult for most Americans to avoid funding fossil fuel extraction and deforestation with their retirement funds. (CNBC)
Life as We Know It
A shortage of Sriracha across the United States has been linked to human-caused droughts and higher temperatures, which make it harder for Mexico to grow its famous peppers. (Los Angeles Times)
Wooden skyscrapers are being called “the hottest thing in architecture this century” as cities race to approve the use of mass timber in buildings to create less waste, leave a lighter carbon footprint, and contribute to quicker construction. (Axios)
The U.S. Department of Transportation is allotting $1.7 billion toward the purchase of low-and zero-emission buses in an effort to improve public health, simplify bus maintenance and meet the Biden Administration’s electrification goals. (UPI)
Climate change has made Texas heat waves longer and more intense, but Texas’s renewable energy efforts with solar and battery-powered energy have prevented rolling blackouts as the heat continues to rise. (Inside Climate News)
Do you or your employees work outdoors? Download the OSHA-NIOSH Heat Tool app for your Android or iPhone, which calculates the local heat index, displays a risk level to outdoor workers, and provides reminders about the protective measures that should be taken to keep yourself and others safe.
If we persist in delaying key measures that are needed, I think we are moving into a catastrophic situation.”
– UN Secretary-General António Guterres
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.