Climate, Health and Equity Brief
Trade wars, new diets, and cities act
February 6, 2023
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: The speed of change. New research supports what is now well understood: the social forces that shape our world—from activism and consumer choices to corporate decision-making and governmental regulations—will play a critical role in our ability to avoid or forestall the worst impacts of climate change.
Unfortunately, conflicting priorities and a lack of political will continue to slow large-scale structural change. While proposed trade policies in the U.S. and Europe taking aim at foreign products made with more carbon emissions are drawing ire from economies around the globe, Republicans in Congress have centered their energy agenda on ramping up domestic energy production in the name of national security.
Meanwhile, smaller-scale sustainable solutions are increasingly taking hold. Stories this week show that cities across the U.S. are taking on novel sustainability projects, key companies are working to expand access to EV charging infrastructure to new segments of the U.S. population, a growing number of young professionals are leaving the tech industry and seeking work at climate startups, new approaches to personal nutrition like the ‘climatarian’ diet are gaining popularity, and individual consumers have more power than ever to make a green transition thanks to financial incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act.
From global and domestic policy to individual lifestyle choices, scientists insist the transition must happen fast. New reports this week conclude that keeping warming below 1.5°C is currently not plausible, and that we are at significant risk of exceeding 2°C as soon as 2050 unless major polluters—including the U.S.— double down on efforts to cut carbon pollution immediately.
— Matt and Traci, GMMB
A new study of California’s 2018 Camp Fire found that survivors were prone to distractibility and found it harder to process information than those unexposed, leading scientists to believe that trauma from environmental disasters can cause long-term changes in cognitive functioning. (The Hill)
A new analysis by The Texas Tribune revealed that heat-related deaths in Texas last year reached at least 268, a new high for this century, amid a sharp rise in migrant deaths and soaring temperatures enhanced by climate change. (The Texas Tribune)
A new report from the University of Hamburg concludes that keeping warming below 1.5°C is “currently not plausible,” though 2°C could still be within reach if major polluters like the U.S. double down on efforts to cut carbon pollution immediately. (POLITICO)
In a new study, scientists using artificial intelligence and machine learning to model climate probabilities found that the world faces a significant risk of passing the critical threshold of 2°C earlier than scientists had suggested, possibly as soon as 2050. (USA Today)
New research shows that from their manufacturing, transportation and application to their degradation and disposal, synthetic pesticides—99% of which are derived from petroleum—are a key contributor to climate change and help fuel a dangerous cycle of warming that ultimately increases pests—and requires more pesticides. (Grist)
Using a new computer model of U.S. tree species, researchers at North Carolina State University found that climate change could reduce the number of trees in the U.S. by almost 25% this century, hindering a major source of carbon sequestration. (Science Daily)
After facing criticism for not using racial demographics to identify communities for funding through the Justice40 initiative in order to avoid a confrontation with the Supreme Court, new analysis reveals the Biden administration’s methodology succeeded at prioritizing minority neighborhoods by using different environmental and demographic factors. (E&E News)
The EPA announced it is blocking a proposal to build a copper and gold pebble mine in southwest Alaska, citing the unforeseen impacts on salmon fishery areas, which serve as a source of food and jobs and as a means to preserve indigenous communities’ customs and practices. (The Hill)
Politics & Economy
Efforts to tackle climate change have prompted U.S. and European officials to propose subsidies for domestic-made products and tariffs on foreign products made and shipped with high carbon emissions, which proponents say is necessary to speed the green transition and critics contend will upend decades-long trade policy and usher in a new era of trade wars. (The New York Times)
House Republicans plan to introduce a slate of bills in the coming months that will overhaul the factory permitting process, take aim at the bedrock National Environmental Policy Act, lean into production of natural gas, and ultimately expand fossil fuel production without a benchmark for reducing emissions. (E&E News)
With tech companies continuing to cut jobs, at least 83 existing $1 billion climate companies already in existence and nearly 1,000 more on the way, many tech workers are now flocking to join climate start-ups, which some experts consider “recession resilient” given increasing global demand for climate solutions. (The New York Times)
Experts say the effectiveness of the Inflation Reduction Act is largely dependent on educating American consumers about the tax credits and rebates now available for products that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and convincing them to buy green as a result. (Associated Press)
A new report found that all but one of the 210 coal plants in the U.S. could be shut down and replaced with clean energy and batteries, resulting in net savings to energy customers. (Canary Media)
The Biden administration released a new analysis indicating the federal government will likely approve a scaled-back ConocoPhillips oil drilling project on the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, a move environmental groups have pledged to oppose. (The New York Times)
Life as We Know It
New approaches to personal nutrition such as the climatarian diet are growing in popularity among consumers seeking to reduce their carbon footprint and eat with sustainability in mind. (Axios)
The Biden administration reversed a Trump-era decision and reinstated protections for Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest, prohibiting road construction and timber harvesting in the roadless areas. (CNBC)
From big cities like Pittsburgh, PA, to small towns like Healdsburg in California’s wine country, cities across the U.S. are taking creative climate action—ranging from investing in better bike share programs to recycling wastewater—providing innovative examples for other municipalities of all sizes to consider while trying to lower their carbon footprints. (Grist)
A growing number of companies are investing in solving one of the biggest challenges to EV adoption: convenient, affordable charging to the one-third of American households that rent instead of own their homes. (Canary Media)
Millions of dollars are flowing into efforts to reduce methane-heavy cow burps after scientists found that introducing red algae into cows’ diets could reduce the amount of methane cows belch by 90%. (Yahoo! News)
Seeking a ready resource on the countries, states, cities and companies making net-zero pledges? Visit Net Zero Tracker, which assesses and provides transparency about the commitments being touted—and how meaningful and achievable they actually are.
The climate crisis requires economic transformation at a scale and speed humanity has never attempted.”
– Todd N. Tucker, Roosevelt Institute
The GMMB Climate, Health & Equity Brief would not be possible without the contributions of the larger GMMB California team—Thomas Baer, Aaron Benavides, Stefana Hendronetto, Sharde Olabanji and Quincy Tichenor. Feedback on the Brief is welcome and encouraged and should be sent to CHandEBrief@gmmb.com.