We know that the effects of climate change are happening, but we often don't see these effects in our own country. Or when something does impact us, our country has the wealth and resources to fix the problem. However, climate change usually impacts poor and marginalized countries with more frequency and with greater impact.
This is where the climate justice movement comes in - read on for more information about this important topic and for ways you can help!
What does climate justice mean?
You may have come across the term when you were reading about climate change, or when you heard a speech from Greta Thunberg, or even when you were learning how to speak to your children about climate change.
In short, "climate justice" is a term with an associated social campaign that acknowledges climate change can have differing social, economic, public health, and other adverse impacts on underprivileged populations. These at-risk underprivileged populations (and nations) are not as equipped as wealthier populations (and nations) to adapt to the rapidly changing climate and the catastrophic events it brings.
The movement aims to frame the climate crisis through a social, human rights lens. The ultimate goal is to shift the discourse from greenhouse gas emissions, numeric temperatures, and melted ice caps to that of a civil rights movement. Once you look for it, connecting the dots between civil rights and climate change are easy to see.
The climate justice movement shines light on the notion that the worst impacts of climate change will not be shouldered equally or fairly. There are specific communities and populations that are likely at the highest risk, and it is often these communities that are the least able to adapt to the environmental change. The way to do this is through what's known as a "just transition"
The just transition is "a vision-led, unifying and place-based set of principles, processes, and practices that build economic and political power to shift from an extractive economy to a regenerative economy (1)." The just transition means managing both the positive and negative social and employment implications of climate action across the whole economy. It means thinking ahead and involving both developed and developing countries, and focusing attention on the decentralization of energy systems, and the need to prioritize marginalised communities.
Which populations will be hit the hardest?
As a United Nations article describes it: "The impacts of climate change will not be borne equally or fairly, between rich and poor, women and men, and older and younger generations (2)."
For certain communities and populations, the climate crisis will exacerbate inequitable social conditions. Here are a few examples:
- Communities of color are at more risk for air pollution. Many toxic facilities, like coal-fire plansIn the United States, race is the number one indicator for the placement of toxic facilities hit by climate change (3,4).
- Senior citizens and those with disabilities may have a difficult time living through periods of severe heat (and would be at a disadvantage evacuating from major storms or fires) (5).
- Women are more vulnerable than men globally due to economic, social, and cultural disparities (6). Seventy per cent of the 1.3 billion people living in conditions of poverty are women, including in many communities dependent on local natural resources for their livelihood. And worse, women in these populations are less involved in decision-making at the community level, which means they are unable to voice their needs to adapt to the hardships that climate change brings.
- The economically disadvantaged are at extreme risk:
- Those living in subsidized housing may have more trouble with floods as the subsidized housing is often located in a flood plain (7).
- It has also been shown that inequality can grow in the aftermath of hurricanes, disregarding the poor and powerless communities (8).
- Globally, the warming of the planet by 2˚C (we're above 1˚C already) would put communities around the world that depend who depend on agriculture, fishing, forestry and conservation - which includes over half of Africa's population - at risk of undernourishment (9).
The Global Climate Risk Index developed by Germanwatch quantifies the impacts of extreme weather events – both in terms of the fatalities as well as the economic losses that occurred. Eight out of the ten countries most affected by the quantified impacts of extreme weather events in 2019 belong to the low- to lower-middle income category (10).
So, what can we do to help?
Organizations working on solutions to these issues
The first way to help is to spread the word. Educating yourself on these issues and talking to others about them can go a long way.
Another simple way to help is by donating (money or your volunteer time) to some of the fantastic organizations working for climate justice solution:
- The Climate Justice Alliance works to bring race, gender, and class considerations to the center of the climate action discussion. You can join them in many different ways: donate, host a party or dinner to support them, volunteer time, or even find a career with them!
- The NAACP is working to fight environmental injustice as well. You can donate or roll up your sleeves and join a local NAACP unit.
- Climate Generation is a nonprofit dedicated to climate change education and innovative climate change solutions through youth leadership and community engagement. You can donate, host a workshop, teach students about climate change, or attend one of their fundraising events.
- Solar Sister invests in women's clean energy businesses in off-grid communities in Africa. You can donate to them as a monthly supporter, invest in a specific entrepreneur, or even join the team.
- Greta Thunberg's Fridays For Future organization seeks to combat the lack of action on the climate crisis in general. You can connect with other climate activists throughout the world to join those striking for climate action.