Cities and Communities

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The scoop: In 2018, global risk firm Verisk combined UN population data with their Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CCVI) and found that 84 of the 100 fastest growing cities in the world face 'extreme risk' from climate change. The remaining 14 faced fell under the 'high risk' categories.

By the numbers:

  1. 95% of the 234 cities most affected by climate change fall in Africa & Asia.
  2. 86% of the 292 'low risk' cities are located in Europe and the Americas

Between the lines:

  • The world's poorest with higher rates of urbanization = face greatest threats from climate disruption.
  • The world's most advanced economies (US, China, India, Europe) account for half of the world's carbon emissions.
  • The International Monetary Fund estimates that 8 out of the 10 fastest growing economies between 2018 and 2023 will be African countries, posing serious risk to companies operating in the region.

Bottom line: There is a clear correlation between climate change vulnerability and population growth. This is occurring in the fast growing economic region of the world, making an even stronger case to invest in climate resilience. Secondly, advanced economies (as the cause but not the victim) have a moral, social and economic responsibility to mitigate the impact of carbon emissions.

  1. Cities and Communities
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Veep nominee Harris Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden announced Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate this week. She is the first woman of color to sit on a national ticket.

What to know After dropping out before the first primary, Kamala Harris has been working with other prominent Democrats to push several new climate bills with a concentration on matters of justice.

Call it what you want, but most political pundits point to Kamala's identity as a woman of color as the main reason for the Democratic Party's, I mean, Biden's strategic selection.

One big thing One of the more interesting prospects of a Biden-Harris ticket is the reemergence of 2015 Paris Agreement. As it stands today, the US will formally quit the Paris Agreement on 4 November, 2020, the day after the election.

My take on Paris I'm not convinced (and neither are some experts) that an international agreement is the answer to climate action without true compliance. What holds nations accountable for these commitments?

As the US-China economic race continues, the Paris Agreement would become more of a cat-and-mouse due to the associated costs of energy reduction than an actual solution.

A Biden-Harris ticket through the lens of climate:

  1. New legislation committed to environmental justice
  2. A series of executive orders designed to build a clean economy; there will be ambitious targets for 2025.
  3. A proposal to make a $1.7 trillion federal investment into climate resilience over the next 10 years.
  4. New efforts toward climate diplomacy/increased cooperation with other nations, traditional allies.
  5. More stringent environmental regulation, increase environmental standards for infrastructure projects.

Bottom line Neither Biden or Harris are climate experts. Their careers were not built on climate activism. However, they are concerned about these critical issues and will hire a team of dedicated experts.

Americans want purpose not perfection. In a candidate, I think everyday voters are looking for public consideration, personal accountability, and the ability to get shit done.

Dig deeper 5 min

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Big picture Two-thirds of Americans believe the US government must act more urgently to slow global warming. As November's presidential election nears, climate change policy will likely earn a top-ten spot in debate topics.

What to know

  • 63% of Americans feel as if climate change is directly or indirectly affecting their communities and livelihoods.
  • 65% believe the federal government is not doing enough to combat climate change.
  • 79% of respondents advise federal investment in alternative energy sources such as solar panels and wind farms.

Politics politics politics

  • Democrats have increased their awareness of the dangers of climate change by 27% since 2009.
  • Republicans and Republican-leaning voters developed only a 6% greater consciousness of climate change.
  • Partisanship seems to color most people's views about local climate change effects more than anything else.
  • Democrats are more than twice as likely as Republicans to say climate change impacts their local community.
  • Moderate-liberal Republican and Republican-leaning voters acknowledge the local impacts of climate change more frequently than their more conservative counterparts.

Bottom line Come November, policy differences between the presidential candidates on climate change will become abundantly clear. Political analysts will have to examine what level of influence climate will have over election results.

Dig deeper → 3 min

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The Scoop Two new cases in Minnesota and Washington, D.C. add to the growing body of lawsuits trying to hold Big Oil accountable for deliberately concealing their role in harming environmental and human health. 

Breaking down the lawsuits

  • Minnesota’s Attorney General (AG) is suing Exxon Mobil Corporation, Koch Industries and the American Petroleum Institute for violating Minnesota laws against consumer fraud, deceptive trade practices, and false advertising. The lawsuit claims that oil and gas companies were aware of the environmental and health effects of their products as far back as the 1970s and 80s, but launched a “campaign of deception.”
  • Washington D.C.’s AG similarly is suing ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP and Shell for “systematically and intentionally misl[eading] consumers in Washington, D.C. about the central role their products play in causing climate change.” in violation of Washington D.C.’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act.

Why it matters By charging Big Oil with consumer fraud, Minnesota and Washington D.C.’s cases closely resemble lawsuits against Big Tobacco in the 1990s which charged Big Tobacco with suppressing evidence for the dangers of smoking and misleading the public. With the clear similarities between these cases, there is hope for similar verdicts; including, heavy penalties (up to $6.5 billion) that could fund climate change resiliency programs.

Dig deeper → 5 min

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The global spread of the coronavirus has caused layoff after layoff in the United States, forcing over 40 million Americans to file for unemployment in less than three months. How can America put its citizens back to work while fighting climate change?

What to know

  • FDR kickstarted the economy in the Great Depression by creating the Civilian Conservation Corps to restore America’s infrastructure while employing jobless workers – similar programs could help unemployed workers during COVID-19
  • Other countries are already doing it – Pakistan has employed 63,000 people in its 10 Billion Tree Tsunami Programme
  • Governments control more than 70% of energy investments globally, so they can steer recovery in a positive direction for the climate and their people
  • With an additional $15 trillion in a global COVID-19 recovery plan, we can increase our global GDP by 2.4% and add tens of millions of jobs in energy and infrastructure

Bottom line

  • Implementing a green stimulus is necessary to effectively combat climate change as we emerge from the grips of COVID-19
  • Many communities disproportionately affected by the coronavirus are also disproportionately affected by climate change, so we must target a dualistic recovery

→ Dig deeper 5 min

  1. Cities and Communities
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The scoop Flint, Michigan is still suffering from an unconscionable public health crisis six years later. We built a lengthy timeline of environmental injustice since 2014. Check it out.

Why it matters Despite municipal and federal efforts to remove the lead pipelines delivering water to residential areas, Flint residents and visitors are still wary. They often only drink bottled water, distrusting the city officials who lied to them for so many years and told them their water was “safe.”

Big picture Moving forward, Flint officials have a responsibility to ensure that every single lead pipe is pulled from the ground, including pipes that don’t currently connect to residents’ homes. They must file reimbursement requests to fund research to further decrease the lead parts per billion in drinking water to at least convey trust to rightfully dubious residents.

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  1. Better Markets
  2. Business
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The scoop Amsterdam has adopted the Doughnut Model as a tool for transformative action in the city’s post COVID-19 economy

What to know Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Model combines social and ecological perspectives to achieve sustainable economic growth beneficial for both society and the planet

Dig deeper → 3 min

  1. Cities and Communities
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What to know With the fate of the Clean Water Act hanging in the balance, the Supreme Court delivered a momentous verdict on County of Maui v. Hawai’i Wildlife Fund on Thursday, April 23.

The case centers on the County of Maui’s belief that the CWA only covers direct pollution discharge, not pollution that travels through groundwater. Because the county didn’t dump their wastewater directly into the ocean, they viewed any punishment as completely unjustified. The Trump administration decided to go against 40 years of EPA precedent and sided with the County of Maui.

Why it matters The decision sets a precedent for regulating indirect sources of pollution. Past decisions will need to be re-evaluated, like the 2018 appellate court rulings that ruled against requiring permits for coal ash impoundments.

Bottom line We are privileged to live in a country with a justice system that enables an environmental group to overrule a government-run wastewater treatment plant. Behind the scenes, groups like Earthjustice fight daily to represent our interests and protect the planet. 

We must continue to educate ourselves on the nuances of the environmental laws that exist to protect us.

Dig deeper → 4 min

  1. Cities and Communities
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Why it matters Changes made now can pave the way for a new and dangerous status quo in environmental regulation that could severely impact the environment.

The big picture The EPA’s policies work to protect our environment and our health. Rolling them back can have grave consequences for both. 

  • A New York Times analysis revealed how the Trump Administration rolled back nearly 100 environmental rules and regulations since 2016. 
  • Proponents of radical changes like the Green New Deal are still the overwhelming minority in Congress. 

What actually happened The Federal Government proposed rolling back 6 major pieces of EPA rules and regulations including:

  1. Weakening the National Environmental Policy Act
  • Successfully allowing final environmental impact statements for projects with federal funding to effectively exclude climate change considerations. Unscrewing tight policy measures will give a free pass to pollute on major infrastructure projects, like oil & gas pipelines. 
  1. Suspending EPA Enforcement
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decided to indefinitely suspend enforcement of its rules and regulations due to COVID-19. Companies will self-regulate their own air and water pollution (sort of). The rule was applied on March 13th.
  1. Opening a national park to resource extraction
  • The Trump administration recently pushed through a final environmental impact statement for a 211-mile road in Alaska that would bisect a national park and open up an area rich in copper, zinc, and other minerals.
  1. Reducing regulation for  a major slaughterhouse
  • The Department of Agriculture confirmed a waiver that allowed a private company to inspect a Tyson Foods slaughterhouse in lieu of the EPA.
  1. Reducing the impact of fuel efficiency standards
  • Last week, the Trump administration rolled back Obama-era vehicle efficiency standards through 2026. Those standards, which passed in 2012, mandated 5% annual increases in fuel economy. The new standards will require less stringent 1.5% annual increases.
  1. Trying to bail out Big Oil:
  • When drafting legislation for the coronavirus stimulus package, the Trump administration intended to buy millions of barrels of oil from struggling producers. Luckily, the measure was nixed in the final legislation due to a lack of funding.

Dig deeper → 3 min


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