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Climate, Health and Equity

DATE POSTED

August 24, 2020


DNC, fire tornadoes and the point of no return

Written By: Matt James and Traci Siegel

Photo credit: Katelynn Hewlett, Reuters.

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. Calls for climate action were on full display at this week’s Democratic National Convention, with a number of speakers emphasizing the need for immediate action to reverse environmental rollbacks, promote public health and food security, preserve nature and safeguard vulnerable communities.

While the Democratic Party as a whole remains split on its approach to the fossil fuel industry, Joe Biden assured voters that as president, he will eliminate fossil fuel subsidies from the federal budget. Just last month, he unveiled a $2 billion climate plan focused on slashing U.S. energy emissions and transitioning to a clean energy economy. Vice presidential pick Kamala Harris furthers this commitment, with an extensive record of advocating for environmental justice and holding polluters accountable.

Meanwhile, the devastating impacts of climate change are ravaging the state of California. This week alone, the state has endured an extreme heat wave resulting in the hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth, violent lightning storms that have sparked more than 350 fires, and multiple, rare firenadoes—yes, that’s right, tornadoes made of fire. We see you, 2020.

In Washington, former Homeland Security official Miles Taylor revealed that in 2019, Mr. Trump attempted to order FEMA to reject aid to California wildfire victims in retribution for a lack of political support from the state. The administration also approved oil and gas drilling in the fragile Arctic National Wildlife Refuge this week, and is now ‘racing’ to sell those leases off to oil and gas companies before his term ends.

To learn how many days are left until you can cast a ballot in your state, visit usa.gov/election-office.

Matt & Traci, GMMB

Health
Overlapping extreme weather events overwhelmed California this week as violent lightning storms collided with a blazing heatwave that drove temperatures in Death Valley to 130°F, the hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth. (Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle)

Lightning has sparked at least 367 wildfires in California in the midst of an intense heatwave, killing at least four people, forcing tens of thousands to evacuate, sparking rare fire tornadoes and degrading the state’s air quality to ‘worst on the planet’ status on Wednesday. (The New York Times, The Mercury News)

A new study found that even inland communities in California face significant risks from rising sea levels, which threaten to push groundwater to the surface and leech pollutants from soil into the state’s water sources. (Los Angeles Times)

A recent study revealed that the melting rate of Greenland’s ice sheet, the world’s single greatest contributor to sea-level rise, has passed the point of no return and will only accelerate as planet-warming emissions continue to grow. (CNN)

Today (Saturday, August 22) is Earth Overshoot Day, officially marking the date upon which human biological resource consumption for the year has exceeded Earth’s capacity to regenerate those resources. (The New York Times)

Equity

Citing COVID-19-related budget constraints, the state of New York has withdrawn a 2020 ballot initiative that would have funded climate resilience projects to protect against natural disasters that disproportionately affect low-income communities of color. (InsideClimate News)

Check out our interview with Yessenia Funes, environmental justice reporter for Earther, about the importance of environmental justice in the fight against climate change. (GMMB)

Politics & Economy
In his speech formally accepting the Democratic presidential nomination, Joe Biden re-emphasized his dedication to fighting the climate crisis and promised to rebuild a greener and healthier America for all. (Our Daily Planet)

The Trump administration is racing to sell off drilling rights in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge prior to the end of his term after green-lighting oil and gas drilling in the 1.6 million acre Refuge. (The Washington Post, The Hill)

A former high-ranking government official revealed that the Trump Administration ordered FEMA to withhold funding for wildfire victims in California due to a lack of political support among the state’s residents. (San Francisco Chronicle)

During the Democratic National Convention’s virtual roll call on Tuesday, 11 delegates from U.S. states and territories spoke of local climate impacts and the need for a transition to a clean energy economy. (Grist)

The American Petroleum Institute launched an aggressive digital advertising campaign targeting young voters and promoting natural gas as a climate-friendly fuel despite its heavy carbon footprint. (Reuters)

Action
BMW, Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and Volvo have all defied the Trump Administration by ignoring its environmental rollbacks and committing to meet California’s strictest-in-the-nation fuel economy standards. (The New York Times)

Kicker
Ever think about who’s responsible for climate change? Watch this fascinating short video, sponsored in part by the Breakthrough Energy coalition, explaining why action is more important than assigning responsibility.

 

“We can, and we will, deal with climate change. It’s not only a crisis, it’s an enormous opportunity.”
–   Joe Biden