U.S. elections, COP27 and what’s at stake
November 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: Politics. U.S. midterm elections take place Tuesday—and most analysts agree that Republicans are poised to control one or both chambers of Congress. Unfortunately, history shows that a Republican-led Congress could spell major trouble for climate policy.
While the GOP has many elements of President Biden’s landmark Inflation Reduction Act and its $370 billion in climate-friendly incentives in its crosshairs, Republicans can’t dismantle the law while President Biden remains in office. Any attempt to do so would face a presidential veto, which would require a two-thirds vote of both the House and the Senate to override—a feat that won’t be achieved in the next Congress, even if the balance of power shifts after Tuesday’s contests.
What Republicans can do, however, is obstruct the implementation of the IRA’s critically important climate programs. This itself is perilous, given that the clock is ticking on our ability to limit warming to 1.5°C without “immediate and deep” emissions reductions, according to scientists. Policy analysts say GOP delay tactics could include requiring unnecessary and time-consuming oversight hearings, using the appropriations process to pull funding for key agencies, or using the debt limit and government shutdowns as excuses to slash climate spending.
Several gubernatorial races will also be critical this cycle. Elections in three states in particular—Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada—will affect the 40 million Americans who get their water from the drought-stricken and drastically low Colorado River. In the face of the current crisis, all three GOP candidates in these races have rejected water conservation in favor of more “unorthodox” plans, such as cutting into California’s water share, building a pipeline to siphon water from the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, or building plants to desalinate ocean water for human consumption. Experts say these proposals are either too costly or politically fraught to be realistic at present, and that conservation is the only immediately viable option.
On the global stage, the COP27 climate talks begin on Sunday in Egypt, marking the first time the conference will be held on the African continent. This year, the success or failure of the conference will hinge on the climate action and aid to which world leaders commit—and major new ambitions are urgently needed.
To date, only 24 of 193 countries have submitted new climate pledges since COP26, and the latest UN assessment shows that current commitments (or lack thereof) would actually increase emissions by 10.6% by 2030, a far cry from the 45% emissions reduction needed in the same time frame to keep warming under 1.5°C.
What’s more, rich countries have fallen tens of billions of dollars short of their pledge to collectively provide developing nations with $100 billion per year in climate financing by 2020—a situation that must change to ensure that the countries least responsible for the climate crisis are able to adapt to its devastating impacts.
Clearly, there is much at stake in the days ahead. Here in the U.S., voting—and encouraging those in your orbit who value the future of our planet to do the same—is the most immediate and vital way to make an impact. We look forward to seeing you at the ballot box.
—Matt & Traci, GMMB
A new study published in JAMA found that elevated levels of stress and air pollution among pregnant mothers can disrupt fetal growth, resulting in low birth weight and an elevated risk for health disparities and disease in their children. (U.S. News)
A new World Meteorological Organization report found that atmospheric levels of the three primary greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide—reached new record highs in 2021, with methane increases the largest since systematic recordkeeping began in 1983. (The Washington Post)
A new study revealed that heatwaves brought on by human-caused climate change have cost $16 trillion worldwide since the 1990s, with low-income countries experiencing more significant losses to GDP per capita than wealthier regions. (The Guardian)
Politics & Economy
Republicans are expected to implement several key tactics to obstruct the implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act if they take a majority in either the House or Senate in the midterms. (Vox)Leaders attending COP27 are expected to focus on the implementation of mitigation and adaptation strategies, the flurry of climate disasters in recent years, and increasing wealthy country commitments to developing countries facing the worst effects of the climate crisis. (Scientific American)
In Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s defeat of incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro is widely considered a crucial victory for climate change that will help curb the rampant deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, which soared to a 15-year high under the previous administration. (The Guardian)
A new poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs revealed that despite the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, 61% of U.S. adults believe the U.S. isn’t doing enough to combat climate change, while 62% have little to no knowledge of the law. (Fortune)
Life as We Know It
Drought, extreme flooding and other climate risks are causing the re-emergence of century-old artifacts and putting pressure on archaeologists to protect and document these sites before they degrade or disappear. (E&E News)
President Biden signed a new international agreement that will compel the U.S. to limit the usage of hydrofluorocarbons, highly potent greenhouse gases used in refrigeration and air conditioning that are far more potent than carbon dioxide. (AP News)
The European Union passed a new law banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and requiring carmakers to achieve a 100% cut in CO2 emissions by 2035. (Reuters)
As a first step to reducing pollution from the aviation industry, airports are beginning to use FAA grants to replace their diesel shuttles with new electric buses, potentially reducing 1.7% of U.S. airport emissions. (Clean Technica)
Scientists have developed groundbreaking transparent solar cells whose properties make them suitable for use in windows, greenhouses, glass facades and portable electronic devices. (The Independent)
Charitable giving to organizations combating climate change amounted to at least $7.5 billion in 2020, increasing 25% and outpacing the growth of overall philanthropy but still accounting for just 1.5% of all giving. (The Chronicle of Philanthropy)
Thinking about throwing away your leftover jack-o-lanterns? Check out how you can donate, compost, or leave them as a snack for backyard wildlife instead of sending them to a landfill.
If we don’t vote, we are ignoring history and giving away the future.”
– TEDWomen Editorial Director Pat Mitchell
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.