Ensuring all communities benefit from clean, reliable, renewable energy alternatives
Solar for Homeowners and Renters
More information coming soon.
More information coming soon.
Environmental Justice and Inclusion
Climate change threatens human health, including mental health, and access to clean air, safe drinking water, nutritious food, and shelter. Everyone is affected by climate change at some point in their lives. Some understanding the way that these factors are related to different impacts of climate change can help people and communities plan for risks, adapt to changes, and protect health.
Climate change is an environmental justice issue because certain groups of people in the United States are disproportionately affected by climate change. These groups are less able than others to adapt to or recover from climate change impacts because of factors like where they live; their age, health, income, and occupation; and how they go about their day-to-day life. These groups include people of color, low-income communities, immigrants, and people who are not fluent in English.
There are many factors that can affect someone’s ability to prepare for, respond to, and cope with the impacts of climate change on health. These include:
- living in areas particularly vulnerable to climate change (like communities along the coast)
- coping with higher levels of existing health risks when compared to other groups
- living in low income communities with limited access to healthcare services
- having high rates of uninsured individuals who have difficulty accessing quality healthcare
- having limited availability of information and resources in a person’s native language
- less ability to relocate or rebuild after a disaster.
“Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.”
– Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
The Earth’s climate has changed throughout history. Just in the last 650,000 years there have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat, with the abrupt end of the last ice age about 7,000 years ago marking the beginning of the modern climate era — and of human civilization. Most of these climate changes are attributed to very small variations in Earth’s orbit that change the amount of solar energy our planet receives.
The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is extremely likely (greater than 95 percent probability) to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over decades to millennia.
The planet’s average surface temperature has risen about 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit (0.9 degrees Celsius) since the late 19th century, a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere. The five warmest years on record have taken place since 2010. Not only was 2016 the warmest year on record, but eight of the 12 months that make up the year — from January through September, with the exception of June — were the warmest on record for those respective months.
Even if greenhouse emissions stopped overnight the concentrations already in the atmosphere would still mean a global rise of between 0.5 and 1C. Six thousand years ago, when the world was one degree warmer than it is now, the American agricultural heartland around Nebraska was desert. It suffered a short reprise during the dust- bowl years of the 1930s, when the topsoil blew away and hundreds of thousands of refugees trailed through the dust to an uncertain welcome further west. The effect of one-degree warming, therefore, requires no great feat of imagination.
“The western United States once again could suffer perennial droughts, far worse than the 1930s. Deserts will reappear particularly in Nebraska, but also in eastern Montana, Wyoming and Arizona, northern Texas and Oklahoma. As dust and sandstorms turn day into night across thousands of miles of former prairie, farmsteads, roads and even entire towns will be engulfed by sand.”
For reference and additional information see this additional fact sheet from epa.gov/climatechange.
Why Climate Action?
In the coming years and decades, climate change will disrupt economic growth, public health, and ecosystems, according to the Fourth National Climate Assessment published by the Trump administration last month. The Assessment emphasized the disproportionate impacts of climate change on low-income communities, communities of color and other vulnerable populations unprepared to cope with these disruptions.
While we have always dealt with natural hazards, the assessment provides sobering detail on how climate change is already exacerbating existing environmental challenges in ways that will likely have cascading consequences for our economy and health. This assessment has real implications for the affordable housing and community development field.
As we saw in the devastating hurricanes affecting Texas, Puerto Rico, the Carolinas, and the Florida panhandle as well as the wildfires in California in the past two years, low-income communities and communities of color are less likely to have the resources and capacity to prepare for and recover from extreme climate events. Evacuation alone can be expensive; given that fewer than 40% of Americans have enough savings to cover a $1,000 emergency, most families, and especially lower-income households, need federal, state, and local support for preparedness and recovery costs like raising a home above the base flood elevation, home repairs, and mold remediation.