A record-breaking heat wave across the western United States. A 73% increase in power outages. The largest wildfire in New Mexico’s history. Even a cursory glance at the news shows the increasing effects of climate change.
The global funding needed to respond to climate disasters has increased by more than 800% in 20 years. The high costs of climate adaptation mean that poorer communities are at an increasing disadvantage: Wealthy areas, unlike poor ones, can afford private water and sanitation supplies, generators, batteries, and solar technologies.
As a result, lower-resource communities are most severely affected by fires, floods, and other extreme weather, with both physical and mental health impacts resulting from these disasters. In the United States, for example, racial disparities exacerbate adverse health outcomes related to climate change.
As more steps are taken to adapt to a changing climate, inequities widen:
- The United Nations is launching an early warning system to provide timely climate information to parts of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, which currently lack access to information about extreme weather.
- Scientists and lawyers are stepping into the growing field of climate litigation to help advance climate policy. These efforts attempt to hold governments and corporations accountable for their roles in extreme weather, environmental pollution, extinction events, and human rights violations.
- Urban agriculture and arboriculture are being implemented as part of urban green and nature-based solutions for low-resource cities to improve sustainability, protect and restore ecosystems, address systemic inequities, and help regulate climate change.
- The fight for climate justice is gaining recognition. In its 2022 report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recognized the environmental justice and climate justice movements and their calls to address systemic inequalities in climate action. Philanthropic organization and GuideStar parent company Candid released a significant report calling on foundations to fund climate-justice initiatives, especially those focused on disadvantaged communities most impacted by the climate crisis.
What Direct Relief is doing
A humanitarian organization committed to improving the health and lives of people affected by poverty and emergencies, Direct Relief delivers lifesaving medical resources throughout the U.S. and worldwide to communities in need—without regard to politics, religion, or ability to pay. The organization is increasingly aware of the strong links between environmental justice and social justice. Through small-scale and larger projects, it is helping people adapt to the impacts of climate change.
With local healthcare providers, Direct Relief is funding the construction of solar- and battery-powered health and wellness resources to protect those in need when extreme weather events trigger outages and grid failures. With healthcare predicated on power availability, these resilience resources maintain essential services while helping communities at risk prepare for future disasters.
A few examples of Direct Relief’s recent climate-related initiatives:
- Invested $5 million into “Power for Health,” an initiative to boost resilient power at safety-net healthcare providers in the U.S.
- Granted $650,000 to help fund one of the nation’s largest solar resilience hubs in New Orleans.
- Prepositioning caches of emergency supplies throughout the U.S. Gulf and Atlantic coasts, Central America, and the Caribbean in preparation for an active hurricane season.
- A recent energy emergency showed the resiliency that Direct Relief’s solar energy projects in Puerto Rico have created, enabling health services, emergency response, and access to clean water.
- Direct Relief published information about which medically vulnerable people are most at risk due to winter power outages with municipalities and emergency management personnel in the central and eastern U.S. during the 2022 storms.
- In response to New Mexico’s wildfire, the organization provided air purifiers, N95 masks, and personal care products.
- Direct Relief responded when tornadoes hit Kentucky, Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri, Mississippi, and Tennessee in late 2021.
This post was originally published on Direct Relief.