Climate, Health and Equity Brief
War, energy independence and the promise of renewables
March 17, 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: Dueling crises. With Russia’s continued, unprovoked war against the people of Ukraine, the world is at a crossroads. The global energy crisis has taken center stage as national leaders struggle with ways to admonish Vladimir Putin, meet domestic energy demand and contain rapidly rising fuel costs while continuing progress toward their climate goals.
The European Union and at least a dozen other countries have levied economic sanctions primarily targeting Russian elites, while two countries—the US and Canada—imposed immediate bans on Russian energy imports, undercutting a significant source of revenue for the Russian military. In Europe—where weaning off Russian energy is a much more challenging prospect—the UK pledged to phase out imports of Russian oil by year’s end, and the EU announced it would eliminate the 27-nation bloc’s dependence on Russian energy imports by 2027.
The crisis has laid bare the perilously interconnected nature of national, economic and energy security at time when our planet can ill afford to pause on climate progress. Unfortunately, plans to phase out coal across Europe have ground to a halt as countries dependent on Russian fossil fuels scramble for available alternatives. And in the US, the Biden administration is now pushing the oil and gas industry to drive up production in the short term to help offset the loss of Russian energy imports.
The real question is whether world leaders can leverage this moment to create momentum toward energy independence rooted in renewable resources. This would allow us to meet the moment at this time of war while protecting against future energy crises and laying the groundwork to curb emissions long-term.
One new analysis found that President Biden’s proposed incentives for vehicle electrification alone—now stalled in Congress—would eliminate America’s need for Russian oil by 2027. In turn, that reduction in demand would help insulate the US from price volatility in the global energy market and significantly curb emissions. Yet Republican lawmakers are almost uniformly rejecting new clean energy spending in response to Russia’s invasion.
The world is facing a critical moment for the energy transition, and in desperate need of public support for a shift to renewables. Only time will tell if pain at the pump will turbocharge—or derail—public demand and political will for clean energy solutions to take hold.
—Matt & Traci, GMMB
Despite Florida’s wildfire season kicking off just one week ago, three major blazes in the Panhandle have already scorched more than 34,000 acres and forced the evacuation of more than 1,100 homes, causing additional devastation in areas still reeling from 2018’s Hurricane Michael. (AP News, CNN)
Recent record-setting storms along Australia’s east coast—including one that deluged New South Wales with more than three feet of rainfall in over just 48 hours—have caused severe flash floods that have killed at least 22 people and displaced tens of thousands more. (Axios)
A new study of medical data from 2 million U.S. residents from 2010-2019 found that days of extreme heat were associated with increased emergency room visits for mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, substance use and self-harm. (Medical News Today)
A new report published in the journal Nature warns that more than 50 percent of the Amazon rainforest—the world’s largest and most vital carbon sink—could turn into savanna within just 30 years due to deforestation and increasing drought frequency in the region. (The Hill)
This crisis is a stark reminder: To protect our economy over the long term, we need to become energy independent. It should motivate us to accelerate the transition to clean energy.”
– President Joe Biden
In the first potential update to tailpipe regulations in two decades, the EPA has proposed strict limits on heavy-duty vehicle emissions which cause smog and exacerbate respiratory health issues among communities that reside near highways and warehouses. (The Washington Post)
A new analysis on the lasting impacts of redlining—a discriminatory housing policy from the 1930’s that denies services based on race—revealed that higher levels of air pollution still persist among historically redlined neighborhoods with high populations of Black, Latino and Asian residents. (The New York Times
Politics & Economy
A new Energy Innovation analysis found that the electric vehicle provisions in President Biden’s stalled Build Back Better Act could cut oil production in the United States by 180 million barrels of oil by 2030, a move which would both help reduce dependence on foreign fossil fuels and meet climate goals. (The New York Times)
As Russia continues its onslaught in Ukraine, President Biden announced a ban on all Russian oil, natural gas and coal imports, a move that has dealt an economic blow to Russia’s war financing while also increasing global energy volatility and contributing to record high gas prices across the US. (CNN, The Washington Post)
A new Rhodium Group report revealed that ambitious climate policies and incentives could cut residential and business spending on oil products by as much as 24 percent by 2030 and protect the U.S. from future energy volatility tied to geopolitical tensions. (Los Angeles Times)
Democratic lawmakers gathering for their annual policy retreat this weekend will work to revive a host of climate provisions that were originally contained in last year’s reconciliation package. (E&E News)
Life as We Know It
Some California vineyards are looking to relocate from the state’s traditional wine-growing regions to the coast in an effort to avoid rising temperatures, serial wildfires and other erratic weather conditions. (San Francisco Chronicle)
In a major win and reversal of a Trump administration decision, the EPA has reinstated California’s authority to set its own strict carbon emissions standards for automobiles. (The Sacramento Bee)
Want to stay up to date on global sanctions against Russia? Check out this informative infographic.
The GMMB Climate, Health & Equity Brief would not be possible without the contributions of the larger GMMB California team—Aaron Benavides, Elke Cortes, Sharde Olabanji, Adrian Plaisance and Stefana Simonetto. Feedback on the Brief is welcome and encouraged and should be sent to CHandEBrief@gmmb.com.