Report Round-up: This Summer's Key Climate Studies

Authors: Stacey Meinzen Stacey Meinzen is a Policy Intern at Green For All. We've written elsewhere on the blog about Green Prosperity, a report on the benefits of clean energy to low-income communities. Green For All released the report in June in partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts (PERI). In addition to Green Prosperity, three complementary reports on the impacts of climate change were released this summer. They show how climate change will hit people of color and low-income communities the hardest, underscoring the importance of transitioning to clean energy. Green Prosperity focused on the benefits of a shift to clean energy. These reports illustrate the cost of sticking with dirty energy. Here are brief summaries: 1. The Climate Gap: Inequalities in How Climate Change Hurts Americans & How to Close the Gap In May, UC Berkeley, together with the University of Southern California, and Occidental College in Los Angeles released The Climate Gap Report. The report illustrates how the rising number of deaths and disasters from climate change will disproportionately hurt people of color and low-income communities – the so-called “climate gap”. Three main areas will have the greatest negative impact on these groups:
  • heat waves
  • increased air pollution, and
  • economic impacts, such as increased prices for living necessities and reduced job opportunities.
Statistics show that African Americans living in Los Angeles County, for example, are almost twice as likely to die during a heat wave than other residents. The reasons are pretty simple: they have less access to air-conditioning and good healthcare, and the 'heat-island effect' cooks urban areas more than other places because of all the heat absorbed by the dark-colored materials used in buildings and roads. The report offers some recommendations for combating climate change and the climate gap:
  • Establish a carbon pollution fee and invest the resulting revenue in communities that will be hardest hit
  • Focus cleaning efforts in neighborhoods with the dirtiest air
  • Develop policies that protect against climate-related economic disparities
  • Integrate community participation in climate policy studies
2. Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States This report by the U.S. Global Change Research Program reviews the observed and projected effect of climate change within the United States. The report breaks down these effects by region and economic sector, pointing to forest shrinkage in Western regions, an increase in heat-related deaths, rising sea levels and flooding, crop failures, and more. The recommendations of this the Global Climate Change Impacts report focus on adaptation, rather than prevention of climate change. It reasons that there will continue to be negative effects of climate change that will require people to adapt, no matter how aggressively greenhouse gas emissions are reduced now. These adaptations could be as simple as a farmer growing a seed better suited for drier weather, or as drastic as companies and individuals relocating away from coastal areas prone to flooding. The report reveals our inability to estimate the impact of future climate change because of gaps in information and understanding. These gaps include our limited knowledge of past and future changes in tornadoes, hail, and ice storms and ecological responses to climate change phenomena. 3. United Nation's 2009 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction
 This report from the UN focuses on the connection between disaster risk and poverty from a global perspective. The central message of the report is that focused efforts to reduce poverty can reduce risks from natural disasters, safeguard development, and adapt to climate change, with beneficial effects on broader global stability and sustainability. The study identifies several factors that predispose poorer communities to suffering more from a natural disaster, such as:
  • vulnerable rural livelihoods that are affected by minor variations in climate
  • poor urban governance
  • declining ecosystems
The report finds that current efforts to reduce disaster risk, reduce poverty and adapt to climate change are poorly coordinated. But it also points out that innovative approaches and tools exist and are being applied creatively at the local level and in different sectors throughout the developing world. Areas such as urban governance, ecosystem management, sustainable rural livelihoods, and local and community-based approaches are burgeoning. These reports speak to the urgency of acting on climate change to prevent avoidable deaths and further damage to populations living in poverty, both domestically and internationally.

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