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Climate Tech for Disaster Relief

On a new FEMA initiative, recycled jewelry, and more.

Briefing image.

AM Briefing: Climate Tech for Disaster Relief

Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Millions of people on the West Coast are under flood alerts as two atmospheric rivers are set to hit the region, bringing torrential rains but also the possibility of critical snowpack replenishment • The Colombian president declared a national disaster as firefighters struggle to put out wildfires in the mountains around Bogotá • Forecasters in the UK are warning of the chance of tornadoes as 85 mile per hour winds batter the country.


1. FEMA will cover solar panels and other clean tech after disasters

Yesterday the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, announced that it will help local governments pay to install solar panels and energy-efficient appliances like heat pumps in public buildings such as hospitals, fire stations, and schools in the wake of disasters. It’s a move that will help those communities become more energy independent and resilient, while also reducing the emissions that are intensifying weather-related disasters to begin with. Last year saw a record 28 disaster costing $1 billion or more in the United States, according to the agency, which added that buildings account for nearly 40% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

2. A bleak picture of Louisiana’s “Cancer Alley”

A new report from Human Rights Watch is an in-depth look at how Louisiana’s hands-off approach to its fossil fuel industries has led to devastating levels of cancer, birth defects, and respiratory ailments, writes my colleague Jacob Lambert in Heatmap.

“The failure of state and federal authorities to properly regulate the industry has dire consequences for residents of Cancer Alley,” said Antonia Juhasz, a senior researcher on fossil fuels at Human Rights Watch. “It’s long past time for governments to uphold their human rights obligations and for these sacrifices to end.”

An image of gas flaring in Louisiana.Drew Angerer/Getty Images

3. More than 4 million lives lost to climate change

We’ve long known that climate change impacts human lives, but putting a number on just how many people it has affected so far is a difficult task. A new analysis, published as commentary in the journal Nature Medicine, tries to do just that, and arrives at a breathtaking figure: at least 4 million people have been killed by climate change since 2000. And as Zoya Teirstein writes in Grist, that’s probably an underestimate.

“Climate change is killing a lot of people, nobody is counting it, and nobody is moving in the direction of counting it,” Colin Carlson, a global change biologist and assistant professor at Georgetown University who wrote the commentary, told Teirstein. “If it were anything but climate change, we would be treating it on very different terms.”

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  • 4. Truck makers team up for EV chargers

    On Tuesday, the three largest heavy-duty truck makers in America — Daimler Truck, Volkswagen subsidiary Navistar, and Volvo North America — announced a new coalition called Powering America’s Commercial Transportation that will advocate for governments and utilities to help build more charging stations for electric trucks. There are only nine charging stations in the country that can serve electric long-haulers, writes Jack Ewing in The New York Times, and the truck companies argue that without more support from federal and state governments they can’t introduce more electric trucks to the market. This may, as Ewing notes, also be a bit of a ploy to shift blame: earlier this month, more than 40 advocacy groups accused Daimler and Volvo of trying to get in the way of stricter emissions regulations.

    5. Pandora goes recycled

    Pandora, the world’s largest jeweler, announced that it has stopped using mined silver and gold and now only uses recycled materials. The change, Reuters reports, should lead to significant emissions reductions: Pandora estimates using recycled materials cuts the company’s indirect carbon dioxide emissions by 58,000 metric tons each year.


    Heatmap is hiring a climate tech reporter! If you are — or know — a smart, ambitious reporter who can navigate the ins and outs of the technology at the forefront of the energy transition, we’d love to hear from you.


    Neel Dhanesha

    Neel is a founding staff writer at Heatmap. Prior to Heatmap, he was a science and climate reporter at Vox, an editorial fellow at Audubon magazine, and an assistant producer at Radiolab, where he helped produce The Other Latif, a series about one detainee's journey to Guantanamo Bay. He is a graduate of the Literary Reportage program at NYU, which helped him turn incoherent scribbles into readable stories, and he grew up (mostly) in Bangalore. He tweets sporadically at @neel_dhan. Read More

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