Earth Day/Climate Change Inequities – May 2024

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Earth Day/Climate Change Inequities – May 2024

Apr 1, 2024

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What is climate change inequality?

  • While climate change is a threat for everyone, it does not affect everyone equally.
  • Climate change, poverty, and inequality are inextricably linked. Long standing gender, racial, and economic inequalities mean that historically marginalized communities are the hardest hit and most impacted by the climate crises.
  • Often, the countries and communities that bear the least responsibility for the climate crises endure the worst outcomes of climate change.
  • Globally, the 10 percent of households with the highest per capita emissions contribute 34–45 percent of global household greenhouse gas emissions, while the bottom 50 percent contribute 13–15 percent.
  • The Impact of shifting weather patterns, droughts, flooding, and storms hits marginalized communities with few resources first and worst, causing unpredictable growing seasons, crop failures, and sharp increases in food prices.
  • People in low-and-lower-middle-income countries are around 5 times more likely than people in high-income countries to be displaced by sudden extreme weather disasters.
  • Indigenous peoples and communities are at greatest risk from displacement due to climate change.
  • Black, Brown and Indigenous communities, who are more likely to live in poverty, face the impacts of climate change while having fewer resources to respond to climate-induced natural disasters and adapt to changes in climate. 
  • Black and Hispanic communities in the United States are exposed to far more air pollution than they produce through actions such as driving and using electricity. In contrast, White Americans experience better air quality than the national average, even though their activities are the source of most pollutants.

What can we do?

  • Climate Justice – countries, industries, businesses, and people that have become wealthy from emitting large amounts of greenhouse gases have a responsibility to help those most affected by climate change, particularly the most vulnerable countries and communities, who often are the ones that have contributed the least to the crisis.
  • We must put equity and human rights at the core of decision-making and action on climate change.
  • At the individual and community level, we can lower our carbon footprints by:
    • Create less food waste – keep a list of what food you have on hand and organize your refrigerator so you can keep track of what’s inside.
    • Buy less – the “greenest” product you can buy is… nothing. Refurbish and repurpose when and where you can.
    • Utilize public transportation – reduce greenhouse gas emissions by leaving your car at home.
    • Cut back on red meat and dairy – the beef and dairy industries cause the highest levels of greenhouse gas emissions.
    • Eat locally and grow your own food – the transportation of various foods, such as out-of-season fruits and vegetables, can cause significant greenhouse gas emissions.

Sources: UNDP, Climate Change is a Matter of Justice – Here’s Why (June 20, 2023), Oxfam, Climate Change and Inequality, The Washington Post, 10 Steps You Can Take to Lower Your Carbon Footprint (February 22, 2022), Lloyd Alter, Why Eating Local Makes a Difference in Your Carbon Footprint (April 20, 2021)