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Climate, Health and Equity

Environmental rollbacks, extreme heat and demand for coal

Written By: Matt James and Traci Siegel

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Climate, Health and Equity

DATE POSTED

May 15, 2020


Environmental rollbacks, extreme heat and demand for coal

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: Rollbacks. The New York Times updated its comprehensive tracker of the Trump Administration’s environmental rollbacks this week, so we thought now would be the perfect time to check in on the President’s progress on his stated commitment to “return the agency to its core mission: Providing cleaner air, water and land to the American people.”

As of today—and as a respiratory pandemic rages on—oil and gas companies are no longer required to report methane emissions. Air pollution in national parks and wilderness areas is far more permissible. The Department of the Interior has carved pervasive new borders into national parks to allow for drilling. And the federal government will no longer take steps to reduce its carbon footprint, nor require itself to account for climate impacts such as rising sea levels when developing costly new infrastructure.

A proposed ban on chlorpyrifos, a pesticide linked to developmental disabilities in children, has been rejected. Coal companies are permitted to dump mining debris into our local waterways. Just this week, the EPA decided against limiting the use of perchlorate, a dangerous chemical in U.S. drinking water linked to severe health complications in people of all ages. And the day after the 2020 Presidential election, formal withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris agreement will become official.

The silver lining? Many of the Administration’s attempts to weaken protections for our land, air and water have been challenged in court. Polls show that a majority of Americans are increasingly concerned about protecting our environment and mitigating climate change. And our opportunity to reverse these rollbacks with our activism at the ballot box is just a few months away.

Matt & Traci, GMMB

Health
The New York Times has updated its tracker of nearly 100 environmental protections that have been or are set to be overturned by the Trump administration. (The New York Times)The EPA will place no limits on perchlorate, a chemical found in U.S. drinking water, despite scientific evidence linking it to brain damage in newborns and thyroid problems in adults. (The Washington Post)

A new study found that extreme heat and humidity will continue to increase in severity, with scientists projecting resulting surges in mental health conditions and heat stroke. (The Washington Post, Reuters)

New research revealed that the number of Americans exposed to extreme heat, prolonged drought, extensive flooding and other extreme weather events will double by 2050. (Scientific American)

Equity
Illegal deforestation in the Amazon has increased by more than 50 percent during the first quarter of 2020, destroying indigenous lands and continuing to chip away at the Amazon’s ability to absorb carbon in the earth’s atmosphere. (ABC News)

Politics & Economy
Coal demand in China has surged 30 percent above levels from the same period last year as factories and businesses resume operations and rush to fulfill orders lost during coronavirus lockdowns. (Bloomberg)

Coronavirus stimulus plans in China, Japan and South Korea will fund new coal infrastructure and provide bailouts to the fossil fuel industry despite falling electricity demand. (Reuters)

Nearly 600,000 clean energy jobs have been lost in the U.S. over the last two months, with a majority of newly unemployed workers in the sector from energy-efficiency jobs. (The Los Angeles Times)

In better news, carbon emissions have dropped in India for the first time in four decades, and a new analysis shows that demand for coal was already falling before COVID-19 lockdowns due to cheaper renewable energy sources and shifting demand. (BBC News)

Legislators in Alabama have advanced legislation to criminalize nonviolent protests against pipelines and severely limit where aerial drones can fly to monitor pollution from fossil fuel facilities. (HuffPost)

Action
Cities including Brussels, Paris and Seattle will permanently close miles of streets to cars and create new bike lanes to increase space for cyclists, reduce vehicle emissions and curb urban pollution. (The Washington Post)

With growing evidence tying pollution exposure to increased COVID-19 risks, eight states are suing the EPA for permitting companies to stop monitoring pollution levels. (The San Francisco Chronicle)

Climate Power 2020 and Evergreen, two newly launched advocacy groups, will push for Democratic candidates to adopt aggressive climate policies and rally voter support in critical swing states during the election cycle. (The Washington Post, Our Daily Planet)

Kicker
Need some animal therapy this week? Check out this preview of contest entries featuring funny photos of animals in the wild.

“Preservation of our environment is not a liberal or conservative challenge, it’s common sense.

–    Former President Ronald Reagan