The impacts of climate change do not fall equally. That is obvious on a global level, where low-lying countries, like Bangladesh and small island states, face inundation, while poor equatorial countries face devastating heat and droughts. It is less obvious, but still true, in the United States, where poor and marginalized communities without sufficient financial and social resources will face significant challenges adapting to the changing climate. While catastrophes appear to affect everyone equally, they are much harder on those who lack the resources to prepare and to cope.
So writes Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholar Alice Kaswan in the latest CPR Issue Alert, an executive summary of two recent articles: “Seven Principles for Equitable Adaptation, published in the latest edition of Sustainable Development Law & Policy, and "Domestic Climate Change Adaptation and Equity," a more in-depth analysis published in the Environmental Law Reporter in December 2012. The articles examine the environmental justice implications of a wide range of current and coming impacts of climate change.
For example, Professor Kaswan writes, "Hurricane Katrina demonstrated the challenges poor families face in finding shelter and new housing after floods destroy their homes. Poor families are also less likely to have money to prepare for storms and wildfires, buy hazard insurance, or have the resources to relocate to less risky areas, where a persistent lack of affordable housing limits the mobility of vulnerable populations."
Professor Kaswan goes on to highlight seven principles policy-makers should adopt in addressing climate change impacts. They are:
Government has an important role to play, particularly in protecting those vulnerable populations without the knowledge or adequate means to act.
Design substantive adaptation measures that address vulnerability.
Provide culturally sensitive communications and services.
Develop participatory processes.
Reduce underlying non-climate environmental stresses.
Mitigate mitigation: address adaptation/mitigation tradeoffs.
Develop a comprehensive agenda.
You can read the Issue Alert, here.