Things are getting curiouser and curiouser…
Climate, Health and Equity Brief

Things are getting curiouser and curiouser…

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: Apocalypse now. If you thought the federal indictment of a former U.S. president and claims of a UFO landing in Vegas were the only surreal things to happen in recent weeks, think again. Several surreal new developments show just how quickly climate change and its related impacts are disrupting our way of life.

Insurance powerhouses State Farm and Allstate have announced they will stop selling new home or condo insurance policies in the entire state of California, citing worsening climate impacts and “rapidly growing catastrophe exposure” among the primary reasons. Such decisions are becoming more common in areas vulnerable to climate-fueled natural disasters, such as Florida—another state where many insurers have liquidated or pulled out in recent years. In other regions, such as storm-ravaged eastern Kentucky, flood insurance prices are projected to quadruple.

In more home-related news, officials in Arizona have restricted future home-building in parts of the Phoenix metropolitan area due to a lack of groundwater—a decision that is set to slow population growth in one of the fastest-growing and most affordable big cities in the United States. And a lack of water isn’t the only challenge facing Phoenix. According to a ProPublica and Rhodium Group study, increases in extreme heat, drought, flood, and fire have put Maricopa County at risk of becoming “uninhabitable” to humans in the next 20 to 40 years.

And then there is the most widely experienced and reported example—the orange skies haunting New York City and toxic smoke wreaking havoc on air quality for more than 100 million Americans in the eastern U.S. due to “unprecedented” Canadian wildfire activity. The fires have already claimed millions of acres of forest, with close to 400 fires raging across Canada—nearly 200 of which are classified as out of control. Wildfire smoke brings elevated exposure to PM2.5 particles, which can travel deeply into the respiratory tract, worsening medical conditions such as bronchitis and asthma and increasing the risk of heart attack among vulnerable populations.

Still other stories this week detail the climate-drive changes afoot, including the heat-driven expansion of mosquito season across the U.S.; the need to use salt water to replenish vanishing drinking water supplies in Uruguay; the need and potential for artificial intelligence to help the effort to cross-breed heartier crops like peaches, which were 90% destroyed this year due to extreme weather; and the fact that Earth is in dismal shape on seven out of eight indicators of planetary safety.

We have the tools to slow and potentially even stop the apocalypse. What will it take to convince the world to mitigate our planet’s most clear and present danger rather than just forcibly adapt to it?

Human Health

Smoke from 160 Canadian wildfires has resulted in the worst air quality in the world this week in New York City, with air quality warnings impacting more than 100 million people along the U.S. east coast, widespread cancellations of outdoor events, and recommendations that people in impacted areas remain inside and avoid outdoor activities and exercise. (BBC)

Researchers in a new study of mosquito trends in the U.S. say rising temperatures are increasing the number of optimal days for mosquitoes to thrive, with 71% of sites studied averaging an annual increase of 16 days—and some cities as high as 42 days—giving the insects more time spread infectious diseases. (KQED)

Severe heat and drought in Uruguay have depleted water reserves and forced authorities to add salt water to the public drinking supply, pushing sodium levels to double the WHO recommendation and posing health risks for people with hypertension, kidney disease, and others on salt-restricted diets. (The Washington Post)

A new study is raising the alarm on the surging health threats of climate change in Germany, including higher risk of heat strokes, skin cancer, and vector-borne illnesses from disease-carrying ticks and mosquitoes migrating to the country. (AP News)

Planetary Health

A new report finds that human activity has pushed Earth into the danger zone in seven out of eight indicators of planetary safety, including but not limited to climate change, aerosol pollution, water availability, and the health and integrity of Earth’s ecosystems. (The Guardian)

New research from NOAA found that atmospheric CO2 levels in May 2023 were significantly higher than one year prior, showing one of the largest annual increases of the last 65 years despite global climate action. (AP News)


A new report calculates that rich, industrialized countries owe historically low-polluting countries more than $170 trillion in reparations to balance out their excess emissions and support developing country transitions to clean energy. (The Guardian)

Politics & Economy

State Farm and Allstate—two of the largest home insurance providers in California—have announced they will no longer offer new homeowner policies in the state, citing worsening climate conditions and “rapidly growing catastrophe exposure” among the primary drivers of the decision. (The New York Times, Axios)

Due to decreased rainfall, the Panama Canal Authority is increasing restrictions on ships passing through the canal—a ‘shortcut’ that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, making it vital for international trade—forcing changes to shipping loads and concerning economists about inflation risks. (Deutsche Welle, Bloomberg)

A new Reuters analysis found that billions of dollars reported to the UN as “climate finance” are going to projects unrelated to fighting climate change, such as chocolate shops, a coastal hotel expansion and even a new coal plant. (Reuters)

New data show that the world is projected to invest a record $1.7 trillion in clean energy in 2023, substantially more than the $1 trillion invested in fossil fuels, yet still far short of the $4 trillion annual investment the IEA says is necessary to reach net-zero by 2030. (Canary Media)

Life as We Know It

Facing a lack of groundwater, Arizona officials have restricted future home-building across Phoenix, a metropolitan area of 4.6 million that is home to over half the state’s population and has become a magnet for people in the US searching for affordable housing. (The Guardian)

As rising temperatures and changing weather patterns make it increasingly difficult to grow crops like tomatoes and peaches—with 90% of the latter lost this year due to extreme weather conditions—scientists are looking at ways machine learning and AI can help cross-breed heartier crops. (CNN, TIME)

The EU announced that it must double its aerial firefighting fleet in preparation for wildfire season this summer as more areas become vulnerable to wildfire risks, citing a 350% increase over the last decade in requests for assistance. (Reuters)


China expects to add more solar panels this year than all panels installed in the United States to date after nearly tripling the pace of solar capacity installations compared to the same period last year. (Bloomberg)

The Biden Administration has announced a $2.6 billion investment aimed at coastal climate resilience that will include projects focused on habitat restoration, climate resilience job training, conservation projects, bolstering fish populations, and more. (The Hill)


Concerned about wildfire season? Enter your address into this helpful tool to track air quality in your local area, and read this helpful guide filled with tips from west coasters who have navigated previous seasons. (The Washington Post, POLITICO)

We have reached a saturation point where we hit the ceiling of the biophysical capacity of the Earth system to remain in its stable state.”

– Prof. Johan Rockström

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