Taking Action for Climate Justice: Our Top Tools, Resources, Stories, and Data

Climate change poses an existential and material threat to the vital conditions of communities globally. Despite overwhelming scientific consensus on the urgency of addressing climate change, policy barriers at the federal and state levels impede transformative action. A fundamental principle of climate justice is that marginalized voices, those facing climate precarity, should be uplifted and centered in all decision-making to ensure equitable policies and practices founded on mutual respect and justice. In the absence of comprehensive leadership from higher levels of government, local communities are stepping up to the challenge, recognizing the need for climate action at the grassroots level to empower community resilience and leadership, and preserve the well-being of current and future generations. 

The impacts of climate change are vast, with consequences that will affect all human systems globally and create conditions that could potentially displace hundreds of millions by 2050. Between 2030 and 2050, it is estimated that climate change will have contributed to 250,000 additional deaths due to food insecurity, infectious diseases, and extreme heat-related events. 

Marginalized communities face disproportionate impacts from climate change; historically, they have been concentrated in environmentally hazardous areas. Indigenous communities are particularly vulnerable to climate change with emerging and existing threats to their livelihood and well-being. Climate-related hazards can contribute to increased water-related illnesses, food system impacts, and land loss, exacerbating current socioeconomic and institutional vulnerabilities

This collection focuses on taking action for climate justice, which requires acting on the root causes of climate change and aligning priorities and resources to priority populations—it offers context for addressing climate change as a systemic public health crisis. It houses some of our favorite tools, toolkits, resources, datasets, maps, policy briefs, and stories about climate change, climate justice, and intersectional topics. 

Address Root Causes of Climate Change

The root causes of climate change are related to human activity regarding energy consumption, land use, and industrial practices. The collective impact of these activities has significantly elevated the concentration of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, leading to climate change. 

Screen capture of Unequal Impact: The Deep Links Between Racism and Climate Change article
Unequal Impact: The Deep Links Between Racism and Climate Change
Story - Written
Brought to you by Yale University
Published on 06/09/2020
Screen capture of Racial Disparities and Climate Change blog post
Racial Disparities and Climate Change
Resource - Blog
Brought to you by Princeton University
Photo of a tornado touching down in a rural area
Mapping Climate Change Indicators
Story - Original
Brought to you by Community Commons
Published on 01/10/2017
Photo of the Young Black Climate Leaders 2023 Cohort with People's Climate Innovation Center Staff
Centering Young Black Leaders in the Face of a Looming Climate Crisis
Story - Original
Brought to you by Community Commons
Published on 02/22/2024
In Solidarity with Maui: Taking Action for Wildfire Response, Recovery, and Prevention
Story - Original
Brought to you by Community Commons
Published on 08/24/2023
Photo of Honuʻāina Nichols smiling with a gradient green-to-teal background and white letters reading
Climate Change, Hawaiian Sovereignty, and the Lahaina Fires: An Interview with Honuʻāina Nichols
Story - Original
Brought to you by Community Commons
Published on 08/24/2023

Respond to Climate Impacts

The United States is facing an escalating climate crisis that requires immediate prioritization and action. Climate change directly threatens human well-being with increased risks of heat-related illnesses, infectious diseases, and disruptions to food and water supplies. Recognizing the interconnectedness of climate change with the well-being of communities and acting accordingly is imperative for fostering sustainable and equitable community development. As climate change continues to grow in severity, it is vital to implement strategic mitigation and adaptation strategies before it is too late.  

Screen capture of the Sea Level Rise Viewer mapping tool
Sea Level Rise Viewer
Tool - Data/mapping Tool
Brought to you by NOAA Office for Coastal Management
PDF Cover: Centering Equity to Address Extreme Heat
Centering Equity to Address Extreme Heat
Resource - Report
Brought to you by Urban Institute
Photo of trees with a blue sky and clouds behind them. Orange banner reads
Clean Air
Topic - Quality Of Life

Identifying Priority Populations

Communities with lower socioeconomic status are disproportionately affected by climate change and are often underserved. To advance climate justice, tailored interventions and strategies for specific priority populations are crucial. Collaborative approaches that center the lived experiences and knowledge of affected communities can support in designing and implementing equitable climate change solutions.

Collage of photos of diverse young and emerging adults
Young and Emerging Adults
Topic - People
Photo of protestors holding signs. Front sign says
Environmental Racism
Topic - Quality Of Life
Collage of portraits from 100 Million Healthier Lives movement
Engaging People with Lived Experience Toolkit
Tool - Toolkit/toolbox
Brought to you by 100MHL
Collage of photos of diverse older adults
Older Adults
Topic - People

Co-Creating Our Legacy

We are at a critical moment wherein we will establish our legacy on climate change and justice, and our actions now set us up for the future. The legacies of climate change leave a mark on ecosystems, economies, and communities worldwide. The impacts are unevenly distributed, disproportionately affecting vulnerable communities that often have contributed the least to greenhouse gas emissions. Adaptation strategies focus on building resilience to the already-underway changes, including developing climate-resilient infrastructure and community engagement. These are important components of a holistic approach to address the legacies of climate change and forge a more sustainable, resilient future. 

The Just Transition framework provides a comprehensive approach to advancing equitable outcomes in transitioning to a sustainable economy and large-scale systems change. It addresses systemic barriers, prioritizes worker and community well-being, and fosters inclusive economic development. Integrating these approaches ensures equitable and inclusive climate action and promotes resilience, empowerment, and social justice amidst climate challenges.

Combining co-design leading practices with the Just Transition framework offers a robust approach to climate justice. Multi-solving for climate change requires collaboration, partnership, and the inclusion of diverse voices from affected communities in decision-making. Engaging communities throughout planning, implementation, and evaluation ensures culturally relevant interventions rooted in the lived experiences of those most affected by climate change. 

Actions to get started

Taking action for climate change involves a systems-wide approach that addresses climate vulnerability and centers on at-risk communities. At the multinational People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in 1991, the 17 principles of Environmental Justice were established to address the adverse impacts of climate change on marginalized communities. Environmental justice initially focused on industrial, corporate practices that disproportionately burdened minority and low-income communities and populations experiencing adverse health and environmental impacts. Born from this movement, the climate justice movement frames global warming as an ethical and political issue rather than purely environmental or physical. This is done by relating the effects of climate change to concepts of justice, particularly on environmental justice and social justice, and by examining issues such as equality, human rights, collective rights, and the historical responsibilities of climate change. 

Action Areas Examples

Community Engagement: Involve local communities in decision-making related to climate policies. Foster community-driven initiatives and ensure that the voices of all stakeholders, particularly those most affected, are heard and considered.

  • Co-design climate action plan with community stakeholders

  • Elevate community voice in decision-making

Climate Action Planning: Develop and implement climate adaptation strategies prioritizing vulnerable communities' needs. This includes infrastructure development, early warning systems, and community-based resilience programs.

Green Jobs: Invest in developing green jobs and provide training programs for workers in industries affected by the transition from fossil fuels. Ensure a just transition for workers by offering support and retraining opportunities.
  • Invest in developing green jobs across various sectors

  • Protect workers' rights and ensure fair labor standards in emerging green industries

  • Engage with labor unions, community organizations, and industry stakeholders to develop inclusive transition plans

Environmental Preservation and Remediation: Invest in ecological preservation and remediation efforts to mitigate climate change and support biodiversity. This includes mitigating deforestation to preserve carbon sinks like our forests and preventing environmental degradation.
  • Invest in sustainable forestry and energy practices to protect biodiversity and mitigate deforestation and energy use

Cover page of Climate and Health Youth Education Toolkit document
Climate and Health Youth Education Toolkit
Brought to you by APHA
Cover page of Guide to Equitable, Community-Driven Climate Preparedness Planning
Guide to Equitable, Community-Driven Climate Preparedness Planning
Resource - Guide/handbook
Brought to you by Urban Sustainability Directors Network
Screen capture of Climate Communications Bootcamp landing page
Climate Communications Bootcamp
Tool - Workshop/training
Brought to you by APHA
A photo of two people working in a community service center. An orange banner spans the top of the image and reads
Community Development
Topic - Quality Of Life

Climate change is not going away anytime soon, and the magnitude of its impacts will only grow more severe. Addressing climate change is not just an environmental issue; it's a matter of public health, economic stability, and global security. By implementing sustainable practices, transitioning to renewable energy sources, and adopting resilient infrastructure, we can mitigate the impacts of climate change and create a more sustainable and equitable world for all. We need to take action now for the well-being of future and present generations.

 Related Topics

Card image
Climate Crisis

Card image
Environmental Justice

Card image
Climate Justice