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How Cities Can Fight Inequality and Climate Change at Once

How Cities Can Fight Inequality and Climate Change at Once

Low-income communities and people of color are hit first and worst by climate impacts, but some cities are proving it doesn’t have to be that way.

THE YEAR 2020 HAS BEEN one of reckoning with the inequities that shape American life. The killing of George Floyd, among others, has brought national attention to how people of color are targeted by law enforcement. And the disproportionate death toll from COVID-19 among Black and Latinx people has revealed longstanding inequities in health and access to care.

It is no surprise, then, that our greatest existential challenge – climate change – also reflects racial disparities and the widening gulf between rich and poor. Climate change does not affect all people equally: low-income communities and people of color are hit first and worst by climate impacts, such as extreme heat and flooding. Struggling communities also receive fewer resources for recovery, so disasters push many into a downward spiral of poverty and vulnerability.

But while climate change illuminates our nation's racial and class divides, the steps we take to address it also offer opportunities to build a fairer future.

As cities prepare for the impacts of warming that are now inevitable, many are already addressing inequity head-on. My colleagues and I at the Georgetown Climate Center collected more than 100 case studies of equitable climate adaptation as part of our recently released Equitable Adaptation Toolkit for state and local governments and community leaders.
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