In this week's newsletter: Climate change could be having a negative affect on human health, carbon offsetting as a tool for environmental justice, check out a Co-ops Go Solar webinar and much more!
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How Climate Change May Be Affecting Human Health

Relatively few Americans associate climate change with possible harms to their health, and most have given little thought to this possibility. Studies in the United States and Britain have shown that “people have a strong tendency to see climate change as less threatening to their health and to their family’s health than to other people’s health,” according to Julia Hathaway and Edward W. Maibach at the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University.

Two recently published reports tell a different story. One, by two public health experts, called for the creation within the National Institutes of Health of a “National Institute of Climate Change and Health” to better inform the medical community, public officials and ordinary citizens about ways to stanch looming threats to human health from further increases in global warming. The second was a full-page article in The New York Times on Nov. 29 with the headline “Wildfire Smoke in California Is Poisoning Children.” It described lung damage along with lifelong threats to the health of youngsters forced to breathe smoke-laden air from wildfires that began raging in August and fouled the air throughout the fall.

Children are not the only ones endangered. Anyone with asthma can experience life-threatening attacks when pollution levels soar. The risks of heart disease and stroke rise. And a recent study in JAMA Neurology of more than 18,000 Americans with cognitive impairment found a strong link between high levels of air pollution and an increased risk of developing dementia.

“While anyone’s health can be harmed by climate change, some people are at greatly increased risk, including young children, pregnant women, older adults, people with chronic illnesses and disabilities, outdoor workers, and people with fewer resources,” Drs. Hathaway and Maibach wrote in Current Environmental Health Reports.

You can read more about this on the NY Times website here.

Carbon Offsetting for Environmental Justice

In the U.S. and globally, marginalized communities are often the first to bear the brunt of both climate change and air pollution. Corporate decarbonization strategies must address this fact by making equity a core part of their work toward climate solutions.

Reams of data validate the fact that air pollution and poor air quality—from power plants and other sources—are disproportionately borne by people and communities of colorBlack Americans in particular. This massive environmental injustice has been recently amplified and brought to the fore by the COVID-19 crisis: African Americans and other people of color are getting sick and dying from COVID-19 at much higher rates than white Americans. Air pollution and pollution-driven respiratory illness are a key part of the cause for this and many other health disparities.

Carbon offsets generated through afforestation or avoided tropical deforestation, for example, often do more for a company’s image than for climate mitigation. Some have proven actually harmful to the environments, lives, and livelihoods of host communities. Similarly, unbundled Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) can confer corporate green credentials without actually reducing GHG emissions or building new projects. 

One of the most innovative conceptual approaches to carbon offsetting, however—an approach with environmental and climate justice at the very core of its concept—comes Nashville-based startup Clearloop, which generates carbon offsets by using corporate decarbonization investments to build new, clean-energy infrastructure in the dirtiest parts of the U.S. grid.

Clearloop is based in the heart of the U.S. Southeast, a fossil-fuel-heavy region that ranks as the sixth-largest global carbon emitter and lacks adequate renewable energy mandates. The company’s approach to climate and renewables innovation differs from legacy strategies because it’s anchored to the concept of emissionality.

Coined by the nonprofit WattTime, emissionality quantifies the precise amount of GHG emissions avoided through the addition of a unit of clean energy generation capacity. An emissionality approach to carbon offsetting is therefore an important improvement on “additionality”: It gives companies the ability to drive the addition of renewable capacity in dirtier parts of the U.S. electric grid—the ability to clean up those parts of the U.S. grid that are most reliant on coal and other fossil-fueled electricity generation.

With respect to energy justice, driving renewable capacity additions to dirty regions of the U.S. grid also promises to increase access to cleaner and more affordable energy for populations and communities who have had few avenues for such access to date.

You can read more about this on the Fast Company website here.

February Webinars: Co-ops Go Solar

Is your building an HDFC co-op? Considering solar for your building but unsure how to get started? UHAB and Solar One's Co-ops Go Solar team can help.

This week and next, please join us for two webinars about solar benefits for the community and how to plan for energy projects for HDFC buildings.

Thursday February 11 at 6pm: Environmental Justice & Affordable Housing
Join Co-ops Go Solar for a discussion on the links between environmental justice and affordable housing in NYC.
Register here!

Wednesday February 17 at 6pm: Planning for Energy Projects
Get tips on how board and shareholders can work together to make cost-effective decisions about your building's energy.
Register here!

We look forward to seeing you (virtually) there!


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Upcoming Virtual & Socially Distanced Events

Radio BE-Ex: Field Notes with Ashok Gupta
Online, 1-2pm, free

Emerging Professionals Virtual Meet & Greet
Online, 5:30-6:30pm, $10 general admission/$5 Urban Green members/free for Trust, Leadership Level, Sponsor or Organizational members

Crushing the Code NYC: Commercial
Online, 9am-1pm, $75
This training will be given in 2 parts, 9am-1pm on both 2/11 & 2/12.

Municipal Art Society Virtual Tours: Grand Central Terminal
Online, 11am-12:15pm, $25 general admission/$15 MAS members
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