By now, we are all well-familiar with the catastrophic consequences of climate change–many of which are already showing themselves.
By now, we are all well-familiar with the catastrophic consequences of climate change–many of which are already showing themselves. With rising temperatures, sea levels, and pollution, everyone is affected by these rapid changes.
However, not everyone is affected equally. This may come as a surprise, but in fact, there are more vulnerable populations by geography, socioeconomic status, and more that are being subjected to greater damage than other parts of the world.
This phenomenon of imbalance is referred to as climate injustice. A deeper dive into the matter reveals that these disparities are growing even wider, yet there are actionable steps that businesses, in particular, can take to help alleviate these burdens.
What is to blame for this injustice? We can look to a variety of confounding factors. Throughout history, efforts to gain power have included exploitation. Forms of oppression like white supremacy and colonialism combine with capitalist ideals of maximizing profits to systemically elevate certain peoples while disadvantaging others.
The number of carbon emissions being generated differs dramatically from country to country. Nations that emit high volumes of carbon tend to be richer and highly industrialized. For example, the United States emits the highest concentration of greenhouse gasses and yet does not use any of its amassed wealth or resources to mitigate the harm caused.
How Does Climate Injustice Affect Society?
There are several ways in which climate injustice manifests itself, although not all are given the same attention.
The devastating intensity of 21st-century hurricanes Sandy, Isaac, and Katrina can be linked to climate change. While these hurricanes impacted large swaths of populations across the Atlantic, they disproportionately impacted low-income communities of color in part due to slow evacuations and failing infrastructure. Millions of homes, businesses, and lives were lost.
In addition to extreme natural disasters, pollution is a major demonstration of climate injustice. The Flint water crisis is one glaring example of this. Residents in Flint, Michigan (primarily people of color) have been without clean drinking water for close to a decade after the city switched its water supply to save money.
In other regions, communities are exposed to life-threatening toxins given their proximity to chemical plants and corporate-run facilities that pump noxious gas and other materials into the environment.
Climate injustice describes how specific communities and populations are disproportionately impacted by climate change.
What is Being Done to Fight Climate Injustice?
To start, there is a greater emphasis on spreading awareness about climate injustice. Organizations from small grassroots groups to large coalitions are launching campaigns to spread the word. They also stage protests demanding that elected officials instate changes.
Many are advocating for policy change to help safeguard vulnerable communities and help reverse the damaging effects of climate change, including drastically reducing carbon emissions. There are politicians whose platforms are centralized around addressing climate change and injustice–outlining explicit actions to alleviate the damage.
On an individual level, many people are making personal changes, such as shifting their eating habits to a more plant-based diet, considering that meat processing facilities and livestock contribute immensely to toxic emissions.
How Can Businesses Address Climate Injustice?
The following few items are far from comprehensive but give insight into some of the broadest and most impactful ways for businesses to combat climate injustice.
Re-evaluate your company’s supply chain: Depending on your company’s operations, there may be facets of your production and/or supply chain that could be transformed to get the entire process closer to carbon-neutral. Consider different modes of transportation, less plastic in shipping, greener alternatives to materials, and electronic communication methods over paper.
Leverage your network to make an impact: Collaboration is key. Align with other businesses, form pacts, and invest part of your budgets in causes that address climate injustice. By engaging partners, businesses can rely on one another to not only hold each other accountable but also exchange best practices and resources.
Center your decisions around eco-consciousness: Before making any decision, consider the environmental implications. Many companies are hiring sustainability managers with backgrounds in environmental science, engineering, business, and more. Developing a greener business plan does not need to happen overnight, but continual actions significantly reduce your environmental impact over time.
Climate injustice is a serious issue that sees vulnerable populations reaping the dire consequences of climate change.
Businesses should adopt greener business operations to combat climate change.
Economically insecure populations of color are especially vulnerable to the devastating impact of climate change.