We Must Consider Diversity and Equity in Climate Adaptation Solutions
Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX)
In recent years, Americans have faced the realities of extreme weather events, with impacts ranging from the destructive winds and floods of hurricanes to resource-depleting megadroughts. These storms have increased in frequency and intensity, and the latest reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, have connected increased climate risk with human behaviors like fossil fuel consumption, removal of carbon sinks such as forests, and unstable agricultural practices and land management. The IPCC released a series of reports in the last six months that incorporated the findings of hundreds of authors from across the globe. These reports have concluded that the risks and vulnerabilities associated with climate change will continue to worsen as the planet warms.
Raging wildfires, loss of crops and habitats, and increasing water scarcity are all associated with a warming planet. These risks and insecurities become far more extreme if global warming reaches greater than 1.5 °C in the next century. The IPCC’s latest report on mitigation has issued a dire warning: global emissions must peak within three years and net zero emissions must be reached by 2050 to avoid exceeding the 1.5 °C target and facing the worst effects of climate change.
The task of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 may seem daunting, and the window for action is narrowing. As I stated at COP26 — inaction is not an option. There is unique opportunity for coordination between federal and local government to develop policies and programs that will mitigate and reduce carbon emissions, including the shift towards clean energy and the use of nature-based infrastructure.
As we work towards mitigating global greenhouse gas emissions, we must also acknowledge the need for parallel efforts to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Solutions geared towards adaptation must be approached in a way that is unique to the diverse communities across the US. Some US cities have already taken on the task of re-defining their policies and goals around addressing climate change. In my home state of Texas, Houston’s climate action plan has identified the key sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the city and has implemented an evidence-based system to reduce these emissions. Within my district, the city of Dallas has created a comprehensive climate action plan which directly incorporates environmental justice into its activities.
Adapting to a changing climate requires intensive coordination between the Federal government and communities, and the incorporation of local and indigenous knowledge is critical for ensuring just and equitable adaptation methods. Climate change impacts disproportionately affect communities of color, and the voices of these communities are often left out of the discussions on adaptation and resiliency.
It is crucial to engage with these communities to understand how we can strengthen the mechanisms for Federal research and development to support local climate resilience, adaptation, and mitigation efforts.
Tomorrow, April 28th, the Science Committee will be hearing from climate science experts and practitioners of climate adaptation and resilience ranging from the local up to the Federal level. This will be an important opportunity to understand the utility and impact of the IPCC reports on real-life approaches to climate adaptation, mitigation, and resilience. What we learn from our witnesses this week can be utilized to identify approaches for building adaptation and mitigation solutions at both a local and national scale and will provide important input as we work to address the challenges posed by climate change.